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Talking Heads 2 

Letters 3 

Equal Opportunity Parents: 

Just How Equal Can We Be? 15 

Article by Maxine Holz 

Motherhood & Politics? 21 

Article by Monica Slade 

Computer Education = Processed Kids? 24 

interview with Herbert Kohl 

LEGO: A 'Play System' for Modular Thinking 30 

Article by Imma Harms 

Poetry 34 

Maximin, Lipschutz, Barclay, DeRugeris, Lifshin, Schaffer, Breiding 

A Day In The Life of Employee #85292 36 

Tale of Toil by Jay Clemens 

International Loafers & Winos Union 41 ^ ^-» 

Fiction by Jeff Goldthorpe 

Unwanted Guests 43 « ;»tt 

Article by Dennis Hayes 

Cover Graphic by: Louis Michaelson 

All of the articles and stories in Processed World reflect thie views and fantasies of thie authtor and not 
necessarily thiose of other editors or contributors. 

CREDITS: Jay Clemens, Lucius Cabins, Helen Highwater, Maxine Holz, Louis Michaelson, Zoe Noe, Med-0, Dennis Hayes, 
Linda Thomas, Ana Logue, Primitivo Morales, Emily, D.S. Black, Paxa Lourde, Kelly Girl, Stephen Marks, Bea Rose, Gene 
Eric Mann, Boz, Friends of the Toad, Clayton Sheridan, J C. Jr., The Big Mud Duck, Canary Tracing, Sheba of Sheboygan, 
Datadybbuk, D.J. Discrash, Steve C, Persky, Frog, J. Vorhees, and many others... 

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Summer 1985 • 

'The Magazine With A Bad Attitude" 
_ _ , 

ISSN 0735-9381 


Processed World #14 marks a couple of beginnings: we have gone to a larger format primarily to 
provide more graphic possibilities, and this is the first time our special theme is on questions 
involving children, childcare, and learning. 

Maxine Holz combines a look at feminist gender identity theory with a discussion of her own trials 
and tribulations as a new parent in Equal Opportunity Parents: Just How Equal Can We Be? In 
Motherhood and Politics? Monica Slade offers an impassioned defense of having children as a 
political act, and analyzes the problems of anti-child discrimination in society at large as well as 
within oppositional political movements. 

Radical educator Herbert Kohl is interviewed in Computer Education = Processed Kids? wherein 
he discusses his views on the relationship between kids and computers and the uses of computers in 
education. Taking a different approach to education and "toys" is the article on Lego "play 
systems" translated from a West German magazine. 

Our ongoing focus on the Underside of the Information Age continues with a revealing Tale of Toil 
about working in a Hewlett-Packard factory in Silicon Valley, A Day in the Life of Employee #85292. 
Also, Dennis Hayes dissects government and corporate research into computer hazards in a survey 
of VDT and other dangers called Unwanted Guests. 

Jeff Goldthorpe's fictional account of being a refugee in his own union hall after a stint at college, 
International Loafers and Wines Union, along with a selection of poetry round out this issue. 

Those of you who are subscribers received our appeal for funds after our harrassment and eviction 
late last year. The instigator of the eviction. Bob Black (a.k.a. "The Last International"), continues 
his obsessive campaign to destroy Processed World. His 2 year vendetta (so far, 1 smashed down 
door, a glued lock, a busted lower lip, and some magazines slashed in different Bay Area 
bookstores), climaxed in June when he was interrupted at 2 A.M. pouring gasoline under our front 
door, and over the front of the building in which PW has its shop. By pure luck a resident of the 
building came home at just the right moment but unfortunately Black escaped into the night. Had he 
succeeded it's possible that several people living here would have been killed. He's believed to have 
left the Bay Area so if he turns up in your city, watch out! 

This new format is an experiment so let us know how you like it — we might be forced back to the 
smaller size for money reasons anyway. Keep sending us your wonderful letters. Articles, stories, 
poetry, photos, and graphics are always welcome too (send copies cuz we can't guarantee its 
return!). And send us money! Subscribe! Buy subscriptions for all your friends... Send donations 
(we hope to have tax-deductible status soon)... Heeeeellpp!! 

Processed World, 55 Sutter Street #829, San Francisco, California, 94104, USA 


iJUUimU As a prelude to 

.r->, >r-v >r-). >-).,<->, x-i. x-y^. 

As a prelude to this issue's Letters section we are featuring the 
following exchange of views. The 2 opening letters from different readers 
overlap somewhat in the questions they raise. They've prompted a fair 
amount of discussion and debate among PWers. In order to show more of 
our own diversity, and to demonstrate the broad nature of the discussion, 
we are printing six of our responses. We urge others to contribute their 
views to this perhaps recurrent feature: 



Dear PW: 

I am a temporary word processor and I 
read your magazine. As I read it, it 
becomes obvious what you are against: 
routine, alienating dull work. But what are 
you for? Since you do not like the way 
offices are generally organized, what do 
you see as an alternative? I would like you 
to discuss these questions in your maga- 

There are many alternatives that people 
hold up as models of non-alienating or- 


Some models you may see in a business 
school. There they sometimes talk of socio- 
technically designed offices where workers 
are organized into autonomous work 
groups that have no supervisor per se. 
Instead the workers share leadership re- 
sponsibilities. They get paid according to 
the number of skills they learn as opposed 
to according to how long they've worked 
there. Instead of hiring a janitor, main- 
tenance person or other person to do the 
shit work, they are responsible for doing 
the work themselves. No one person gets 

stuck with the shit work. No one person 
becomes boss or leader. They rotate jobs. 
Is this your model? 

Or do you consider giving all the typing, 
filing, word processing and etc. to one 
person (the temp, the secretary or who- 
ever) to be sticking him or her with all the 
shitwork? Would this make your ideal a 
company like PeoplExpress where there 
are no secretaries and if the president 
wants to send out a letter, he writes it by 
hand? Workers there also have some 
limited ownership of the company. 

Is your model a socialist one? Is it an 
anarchist one? Does your model come from 
the way collectives were run in anarchist 
Spain during the civil war in the 30's? Does 
your model come from the way collectives 
and cooperatives operate now? Does your 
model come from the workplace democracy 
school of thought (Paul Bernstein, Daniel 
Zwerdling, Jean Neuman and others)? Is 
the PW organization a model of unalie- 
nated office and production work? Or is 
your work there alienated? 

So one question I have for you is — 
"What is your idea of how an office or 
organization should be run?" This leads to 
other questions. How do you suggest we go 
from where we are now to where you wish 
to go? Pieces in your magazine advocate 
sabotage and theft, how does sabotage or 
theft move us closer to your vision of how 
offices or organizations should be run? 

Or maybe I am barking up the wrong 
tree and you are against any and all forms 
of organization, including your own. May- 
be you have not even thought about better 
situations. Do you exist just to object to the 
way things are without thought of an alter- 
native or ways to create an alternative? 
Will you even answer these questions? 
Perhaps you will give a quick flip response 
or no response because you are too lazy to 
think about this. 

To change society, it helps dramatically 
to know what you want to change it into. 

The power of your publication would be 
greatly increased if you began to address 
these questions. 

D.M. -Downey. CA 


j I'm studying 
f?>. interior design. 


Hello there staffers, 

It is true. I am white, well-educated and 
working in "management." I am also an 
artist. I am also a former hippy, a leftover 
radical/burnout from the heady 60's. Let's 
see, what other whistles can I blow on 
myself??? Ah, yes, I am a woman, and a 

I put "management" in quotes because 
the net result of all my "lost" years and 
radical history has only just brought me to 
the point where I needn't be the first to 
answer the telephone when it rings 
anymore. Also, I sometimes have to super- 
vise people in order to complete my 
assigned tasks and duties. Please don't 
think this means I have any power over 
either the direction or the form of the 
organization. . . because I don't. 

Most of the railing comments against 
management in your publication are under- 
standable. I am sure I would not be able to 
get hired, much less be able to work in a 
modern, electronic "back-office. . ." I even 
believe in stealing time on the job (who can 
truly do bullshit efficiently more than 6 
hours a day, anyway?), and refusing to 
cater to the concept of hierarchical author- 
ity has long been a factor in my somewhat 
undistinguished "business careerl" 

Still, I have about as much interest in 
putting the "means of production " under 
the control of the average "co-worker" as I 
have in living through the results of a 
nuclear attack. Let's be honest. It is real 
easy to bitch and moan and feel self- 
righteous. It is far more difficult to come up 
with a coherent workable plan to transform 
the social and economic problems into 
Utopian solutions. 

Hatred is hatred and bigotry is bigotry. 
The tyranny of the "working class " would 
only be worse than what we have at 

I find genuine joy in inspiring people 
(supervising) to successfully accomplish 
tasks that need doing in order to keep food 
on everyone's table (management). Sup- 
pose you don't like working for, say, banks, 
and you aren't able to figure out how to 

find a job that isn't for a bank. Then, why 
should I trust that you are going to be 
creative enough to protect my needs (if you 
succeed in putting yourself in charge) 
without any agreed upon plan for rebuild- 
ing the society? Your very inability to find 
some less exploitative job tells me that you 
have trouble with planning and implemen- 
tation in your own life. No question that it 
isn't easy to find worthwhile work, but it 
isn't impossible. Formulating a new social 
structure will be far more difficult than 
finding a new jobl 1 

My personal preference is that we stop 
carping about technology and learn to use 
it to our own purposes. Computers are not 
going to disappear. Our hope and our op- 
portunity is in creating alternative struc- 
tures or "information networks," if you 
will, from which "common people" can 
begin to learn to speak openly with one 
another. Here's our chance to form true 
grass-roots organizations without the con- 
straints of "mass media" redefining the 
"movement" out from under us on a daily 

It will not be enough to dismantle the 
authoritarian power structure of the world. 
At this point in history, sad to say, that 
structure is only symptomatic of the real 
problem... individuals have insulated 
themselves from one another and have 
personally abdicated any responsibility for 
the world being in the mess that it is in. No 
go, guys!!! We are all responsible. We 
need to begin to unite and speak together 
about real solutions, as opposed to pre- 
tending we will become powerful by 
destroying "capital resources." 

We will never defeat the power brokers 
unless we can unite the majority into acting 
for a plan that has some hope of providing 
for everyone's livelihood in some practical, 
easy to comprehend fashion. 

I understand the need to rant and rave 
and let off steam. The injustice and horror 
is all very real. It's just that we need to 
remember not to let ranting and raving 
become a substitute for problem solving. 
Because after the "revolution," ranting 
and raving are just another form of 

Thank you for the opportunity to com- 

F.L. —Santa Monica, CA 


When I joined the Processed World col- 
lective, nobody asked me what my politics 
were. In fact, my faith in historical 
processes, like my faith in an ultimate 
meaning of existence, is in constant flux 
from deep to tenuous. 

I do believe, however, that making the 
workplace nicer, giving workers more 
responsibility, or otherwise changing the 

organization of labor in the office or 
factory, will not make our jobs any less 
alienating. For it is capitalism itself and its 
reduction of life to the pursuit of profit that 
is the cause of our dissatisfaction. 

A case in point: I worked as a temp in the 
human resources department of a large, 
publically controlled, utility. A resource, 
according to the O.E.D. is "a means of 
supplying some want or deficiency; a stock 
or reserve upon which one can draw when 
necessary." In business and government, 
it is the common denominator by which our 
destinies as human beings can be dealt 
with "objectively" in the manner of raw 
materials, equipment, and financial re- 
serves. The lawyers in this department 
keep track of collective bargaining agree- 
ments in other industries with an eye to 
winning concessions with its unions when 
their contracts expire. The department's 
actuaries study ways of reducing retire- 
ment benefits. The lawyers and actuaries 
were very nice people. Sometimes, at my 
request, they even let me work at home for 
the same hourly rate as if I were in the 

Of course, the "bottom line uber alles" 
is what makes America the great imperial 
power it is. As a temp working in the 
banks, insurance companies, and other 
institutions of that ilk, I feel like I am a foot 
soldier in the occupying army of the large 
corporations that rule the free-world 
empire. But through my work with 
Processed World, I also feel like a member 
of a fifth column poised to sow dissent, 
divulge secrets, or otherwise undermine 
the corporate structure. I do not think there 
will be a revolution, or a strong shift in 
values, in my life time. But I believe it is 
really important that we struggle to 
maintain our humanity in the face of wage 
slavery, competition for jobs, and a con- 
sumerist culture in which people are 
measured by their spending power. 


Stung by accusations of laziness, I push 
myself to my writing machine and start 
composing an answer to D.M. 

My work at PW is not alienated — it can 


BJ) I c J) 


II um 


be tedious, repetitive, frustrating, even 
hard. But it is not alienated in any real 
sense. I am not earning money for some- 
body else (save very indirectly the paper 
maker, etc.), and I am not helping to create 
some power above/outside of myself. I am 
doing these activities so that I may have 
more contact with people, so that more 
people can find some forum for their ideas. 
The end product, the magazine, is not a 
commodity in the sense that we produce it 
to earn money. If I had to collate pages, or 
worse yet, run them through the folding 
machine, 8 hours a day for General Amal- 
gamated Inc., that would be alienated 
labor, even if I liked/used/needed the end 
product. There's such a thing as too much 
of a good thing — the only activity I like to 
engage in for 8 uninterrupted hours is 
sleep. The odious tasks are relatively short- 
lived and scarce because of our schedule. 
We all share in the needed labors, but they 
aren't an everyday problem. 

Are we a model for other organizations 
and enterprises? No. . . not really, because 
we are a few volunteers doing something 
spread over a long period of time. Clearly 
our form couldn't work for a project which 
needs to work continuously such as a 
women's health center, or an organizing 

Do we have a model we look to? Not 
really . . . most of us have been in other 
groups, each with their own ways. We try 
to come up with a structure that answers 
the needs of production and the needs of 
the personnel. We're certainly not an 
imitation of the Spanish anarchists, the 
RCP, some industrial management clown, 
or somebody's school. 

I advocate sabotage (on-the-job direct 
action) ; not for everybody — if you get along 
well with your work situation, aren't being 
ripped off, and aren't producing lethal 
"goods," then there's no point. But most 
of us have had, or will have, a job where we 
are being robbed: of time, money, respect 
. . . some thing or quality. This kind of 
abuse is damaging. Just as the colonized 
may come to identify with the colonizer, or 
the oppressed with the oppressor, and the 
censored artist comes to internalize the 
censorship, these daily and minute abra- 
sions grind us down. For me sabotage is 
one way of striking back, of saying that I 
am real, I do count, and I am not entirely 
powerless. My boss may be the target, or 
perhaps some defiler of the land, or maybe 
some military creature. The result may not 
even be noticed, but / know. At times we 
are in places where collective action isn't 
possible (because of isolation or repres- 
sion), yet the need to "intervene" re- 
mains. The greatest sabotage would be a 
reshaping of what is made, and how, and 
by whom. We are not there yet, maybe 
never will be (that bright bright nuclear 
flash one day), but even petty sabotage 
helps us maintain morale, and helps us to 
wear them down (yes, Virginia, there is an 

"us/them" worldview here). It may actual- 
ly hurt them — as when the USS Ranger 
was towed back to port because some sailor 
dumped a 3' monkey wrench into the main 
drive gear (how many Vietnamese — and 
Americans — lived longer because that ship 
wasn't on station?), or it may only raise the 
cost of doing business. 

I've never believed in blueprints for the 
future — we, here and now, cannot know 
the conditions faced by others, at different 
points in time. Generations of people have 
written on the subject and none of them 
have really predicted what we're living in 

now (some are close, but none, of course, 
are accurate). Nor is it for me/us to 
prescribe for others — if a person's imagi- 
nation is so limited that they can't conjure 
up a better world, maybe even with a few 
concrete ideas, then I feel sorry for them. 
Me, I get too embarrassed to talk of my 
hopes for a day that will probably only 
come long after I've been recycled. Nor do 
I think that describing the Emerald City 
will give us a better idea of where to put 
our feet next in order to get there. But 
maybe I'm wrong. 

How to create an alternative. . . the 

Joe Schwind 

question with no dollar value. It will not be 
answered by theoreticians but by people, 
'de base' (grass roots) actually finding 
answers in the course of their (changing) 
lives. 1 offer no final answers, no ultimate 
truths, no perfect Utopias, only a grim 
knowledge that things cannot continue as 
they are or all is lost, and a hope that 
someday all of us can answer "What do we 
want to do today?" 

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•jfi ij* <J> iji <j» ^9 •!» •f» ^» •!• •!• »l» •!• 



Thanks for one of the best letters yet 
criticizing PW. Like D.M.'s letter, you take 
us to task for not developing positive 
solutions to the worldwide misery we are 
part of. Actually your thoughtful letter is 
part of the solution: open communication 
and dialogue. While this alone won't 
change a damn thing, it is essential for 
constructing collective actions that will. 

Your statement that "Formulating a new 
social structure will be far more difficult 
than finding a new job!!" is right on 
target. Indeed, it will require millions of 
Americans to locate their 'identity' and 
livelihood outside of ani; job we now 
conceive of. It means everyone re- 
examining the very assumptions behind 
what we do everyday and questioning the 
oppressive habits universally assumed to 
be 'necessary.' Is working 40 hours a week 
in a downtown office really the best way to 
'provide' for your family? Is a personal 
computer 'valuable' if its manufacture 
requires burning out the eyes of young 
Malaysian women who assemble its chips? 
If income level shouldn't determine access 
to resources, what should? Intelligence? 
Artistic talent? Moral character? Com- 
munity activism? 

Perhaps the most important question is 
the following: What would \;ou do on 
Monday; morning if the bulling and selling 
of human time was abolished? I'd try to 
start or join some kind of affinity group, 
collective, union or 'community' to discuss 
what is still worth doing and what isn't. 
Now is that wildly Utopian or what? Well, 
it's a lot less fantastical than PW positing a 
plan or model for everyone to follow. 

It's on the issue of who's responsible for 
the current mess we're in that I totally 
disagree with you. You see "indiuidual 
insulation and abdication of responsibility 
as the source of the problem. I don't. If, as 
you state, "authoritarian structure is only 
symptomatic of the real problem" (i.e., the 
symptom of individual weaknesses) then 1 
guess mass psychotherapy is all we need to 
set things straight. Perhaps Rogerian coun- 
seling is the solution to the 'inferiority 
complex' of black South Africans. 

It's all too clear that the primary cause of 

our misery is international capitalism, both 
corporate and state sponsored. To be sure, 
most of us (myself included) are fucked-up 
and need to undergo significant inter- 
personal changes. In particular, changing 
the patterns of patriarchy, the work ethic, 
racism, and self-destructiveness will re- 
quire a great deal of individual psycholo- 
gical work. Yet, as with all social matters, ^ 
the forces of change are interactive. S 
Individual consciousness and social super- " 
structure dynamically influence each other, a 
But it's a real backward step (despite its S 
current fashionability) not to see social a. 
superstructure as having primacy. It was 
the structural abolition of slavery (not 
individual strength of character among 
slaves) which significantly improved con- 
ditions for Blacks after the Civil War. 

Your misguided analysis regarding the 
primary source of the world's problems is 
perhaps why you believe "The tyranny of 
the working class would only be worse than 
what we have at present." Leaving aside 
the outmoded labeling (what is tyranny of 
the working class but old useless, rhetoric?) , 
it's absurdly elitist to think the self- 
interest of a tiny minority of capitalist 

tabilitA centrale 


you ^££, THl^ 

(nofnir>ativo completo 9 IndJrlzzo) 

30 MAG. 1985 

managers makes for a better world thar 
the desires of the vast majority who now 
carry out their dictates. If economically 
forced labor and the profit motive were 
eliminated (highly probably if working 
people determined the organization of 
society) why would anyone freely choose to 
manufacture and ship carcinogenic pesti- 
cides (banned in the U.S.) to Third World 
countries? What would compel you to build 
nuclear bomb components and sell them to 
Israel in order for them to be re-sold to 
South Africa? What possible incentive 
would there be to sit in front of a VDT 
screen 8 hours a day and input numbers for 
Bank of America? 

Perhaps if workers were in power things 
would be more bumbled and inefficient 
than they are now. (Although I doubt if 
that's really possible.) But do you really 
think the living conditions for most people 
in the world would be as cruel and mur- 
derous as they are now? If you recoil from 
the thought of the "means of production 
under the control of the average co-work- 
er, " then precisely who should run things? 
Techno-experts? New Age management 
specialists? Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda? 

It's true the obsolete notion of the 
'working class' won't suffice in creating a 
new society for post-industrial America. 
Throughout the past decade other social 
movements (anti-nuclear, feminist, envir- 
onmental, anti-apartheid, etc.) have far 
surpassed labor in actually effecting pro- 
gressive social changij. And this exposes a 
profound dilemma for American radicals. 
While the ideology of 'workers as a class' is 
pure nostalgia in the U.S., worker solidar- 
ity is absolutely essential for creating the 
positive plans you wish PW would formu- 
late. As always, workers are also in the 
best position to halt the existing machinery 
of social control. Both approaches need to 
happen simultaneously. 

You think that "destroying capital re- 
sources" is merely "pretending we will 
become powerful." Well, conceptualizing 
and popularizing practical solutions may be 
necessary, but it's also insufficient. As 
with Polish Solidarity in 1980, the most 
coherent plan to equitably and freely 
organize society will fail unless certain 
'capital resources' (like the military, secret 


police, the technology of surveillance, etc.) 
are thoroughly undermined. Most existing 
'capital' will have to be either destroyed, 
paralyzed, or re-tooled in order for social 
life to democratically transform itself. For 
the moment at least, the real power gained 
from subverting capital resources pre- 
figures Utopian solutions. Otherwise the 
most likely outcome is that the structure 
perpetuating profit, humans as commodi- 
ties, murder, and mutation will keep spiral- 
ling on. 

Still, it's extremely important to propa- 
gate concrete, progressive solutions — if for 
no other reason than to spark our imagi- 
nations and reverse the pervasive hope- 
lessness characterizing this age of aliena- 
tion. F.L's letter makes a crucial point: 
radical libertarians need to seriously 
discuss the possibility of a social "plan that 
has some hope of providing for everyone 's 
livelihood in some easy to comprehend 
fashion. " To that end, please send us your 

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I strongly disagree that we should be 
either developing a blueprint for the 
reorganization of society and production, 
or suggesting how to manage office life in 
the here and now. The pursuit of a specific 
plan contradicts a basic assumption of our 
perspective, i.e. that social life should be 
consciously organized by ever^/one (or at 
least everyone who wants to participate). 

However, I do think it's worthwhile to 
discuss different ideas to show that the 
way things are is not the only way it could 
be. Our imaginations can and should be 
directed toward alternatives that people 
could actually begin to implement in the 
absence of the innumerable social con- 
straints and institutions they now face. 
Social change is inevitable; the direction it 
takes is not. Therefore our imagining 
avoids religio/millenarian assumptions 
that suggest sudden and total social trans- 
formation to the promised land. On the 
other hand, we must posit radical changes 
in people's relationship to nature, their 
work and each other. 

It's true that since about PW *5 or so we 
have avoided explicit tactical advocacy. 
What emerged, by default, were accounts 

of individual actions for emotional and 
psychic survival in the office. One part of 
this is anti-management agitation, another 
part is sabotage. This reflects our experi- 
ence that most people are not involved in 
collective responses to the modern office. 
But it felt different when the magazine 
started. At that time (1980-81) one of the 
largest strikes of private sector office 
workers in recent memory was taking place 
(1500 workers at Blue Shield in S.F.). Our 
initial interest in sabotage and related 
activities was developed partly in response 
to this collective context. . . the power of 
the workers was being destroyed by the 
company and the union. A return to direct 
action would have given them much more 
power vis-a-vis Blue Shield. Such office 
occupation and/or seizure of precious data 
is obviously illegal under labor and 
criminal law. The law in this society never 
sanctions any kind of real power for 

But what if human beings could set up 
something different? One of my first 
concerns coming from the "office con- 
text," would be to answer the questions 
What is useful information? Useful to 
whom? And for what? In general, the only 
useful information in such a society would 
be that which helps people coordinate their 
activities with each other, and to communi- 
cate freely among themselves. All the 
information now collected for purposes of 
money/property exchange and social con- 
trol—probably 60-80% of all office work 
— could be abolished and no one would 
have to do these stupid things. 

But assuming that there is some useful 
information that needs to be handled in any 
society, it remains to be decided how that 
work should be organized. Should its 
"handling" be integrated into the activi- 
ties it refers to, or should it be maintained 
as a separate "administrative" function? 
In either case, in fact in any given "enter- 
prise" (a group of humans doing some- 
thing together), there would be a dif- 
ference of decision-making power (as yet 
undetermined) between those who stay 
and take a lot of responsibility and put a lot 
of their lives into it, and those who are just 
"passing through" for a month or a year, 
trying it out. This in turn assumes that we 
are discussing a society in which indivi- 
duals have an unprecedented amount of 
freedom to move around and do different 
things, and not to get locked in to any kind 

of "career" unless they so desired. The 
actual decision-making process of any 
given group should be established by those 
involved. (Similarly there would have to be 
an agreed-upon relationship between the 
particular group and the larger community 
regarding the use of resources, the social 
utility of the products, and the effects of 
the activity on broader, socially agreed- 
upon goals and purposes.) 

All this no doubt sounds a bit "pie in the 
sky" in the context of this outrageously 
barbaric, ultrahierarchical, and over- 
specialized world. How might such ar- 
rangements come about? What will it take 
to break through the inertia and amnesia 
that leave so many people feeling afraid of 
change instead of passionately committed 
to it? No small group or publication can 
possibly change this situation by itself. 
Then again, we must try for our own sakes 
if for no other reason. And if we try, and 
others try other things, then eventually a 
social movement with exciting possibilities 
may erupt. 

The crux of a new social movement, in 
my opinion, should revolve around what we 
do, and Luhy we do it. This means that 
people begin to seriously examine what 
they do every day for money, and why. As 
the answers become clear, changes in our 
willingness to go on, as well as changes in 
how we define what we "need," seem 
inevitable. In essence this means a return 
to individual subjectivity, combined with 
an awareness that human freedom is found 
in cooperation, in a society freed from 
coercive social institutions like money/ 
wage-labor, national frontiers, hierarchical 
power, corporations, etc. Processed World 
contributes to this general goal insofar as 
we challenge these basic institutions that 
so many take for granted, and insofar as we 
raise doubts about the value or purpose of 
the majority of work done. Our Letters and 
Tales of Toil feature "average folks" [like 
ourselves] talking about their situations; 
this contributes to a return to subjective 
sensibilities crucial to the larger changes 
we are interested in. 

We make no claims to having the 
answers, and we don't want to be just a 
"bitching and moaning" 'zine. But we also 
don't want to get caught in a "realistic" 
politics that force one to a polici^ of 
social reform as the best we can hope for. 
In fact social reform is profoundly unrealis- 
tic, because radical change is needed 





urgentli/ to reverse the destruction of the 
planet and prevent mass human starva- 
tion/war/poisoning etc. Our freedom and 
happiness (and possibly survival) are depen- 
dent on revolutionary changes in daily life 
that depart from every model or social 
system created in the past few hundred 
years. We are in a unique position histori- 
cally, materially, and psychologically. Our 
solutions must reflect this. They must not 
be predetermined by those who believe 
they are "in the know," but should evolve 
as people grapple with the enormously 
complex and difficult questions that I have 
only barely touched on in this short letter. 
Thanks to D.M. and F.L. for writing. We 
hope this dialogue continues and urge 
other readers to send in their own ideas/ 
rebuttals/expansions, etc. 

I«*»-««»»«»-g»»-» ■»»■« ■»»»■»»! 


Oh Gosh! Another Day! 
v/////////////////////////^^^^^ I LOVE my alarm clock! 


F.L. states that "people have insulated 
themselves from one another and have 
personally abdicated any responsibility for 
the world." This is blaming the victim, 
arguably the cornerstone of the American 
ideology (flipside; anyone can succeed by 
their own talent and efforts). Yet there is a 
core of truth to it. The real meaning of the 
much-abused term "alienation" is that 
people trade (alienate) their control over 
much of their social activity, i.e. their 
work, in exchange for money. In a sense 
this is indeed an "abdication of respon- 
sibility"— but one enforced by the whole 
existing society and its ideology. Each 
individual is confronted with a choice: sell 
their work-time to a company or govern- 
ment (directly as an employee, indirectly 
as a craftperson or retailer); or face what- 
ever their nation does to the jobless 
(welfare, starvation, jail). Collectively, 
their sold or alienated work — producing 
merchandise in factories, circulating mon- 
ey and data in offices, performing services 
in restaurants, etc. — recreates every day 
the horrendous world we live in. At the 
positive pole of this vast flow of human 
time and energy are the top owner-mana- 
gers of business and government. But they 
too are largely constrained by the laws of 
the world market and the web of institu- 
tions, states and power-blocs. The collec- 
tive entity known as "Ronald Reagan," for 
instance, cannot simply nuke the USSR or 
Lebanon, much as he/it would like to; nor 
can General Motors make just any vehicles 
it pleases and charge whatever price, 
because like all businesses it must compete 
and profit in order to survive. 

The result is that all of us, from the 
highest to the lowest, unwittingly repro- 
duce a society over which we have no 
control, and which is destroying us and 
planet. Its masters (and occasional mis- 

tresses) are the least likely to contest it; not 
only are they the best protected from its 
ravages, but they are its super-slaves, who 
have saturated themselves with its values 
in order to succeed on its terms. Con- 
versely, those most likely to transform the 
present world are those with the least 
personal stake in it and the most collective 
power to destroy it. By and large this 
means neither the professionals (too com- 
fortable) nor the desperately non-employed 
poor (too powerless). It can only mean the 
ordinary routine workers, whether clerical, 
industrial or service. One of the most care- 
fully suppressed facts of modern history is 
that just such people — not "great think- 
ers" like Marx — inuented socialism/com- 
munism/anarchism nearly two hundred 
years ago. They have also devised in 
practice a host of new kinds of libertarian 
social forms — committees of correspon- 
dence, neighborhood clubs, factory com- 
mittees, cooperatives, "parliaments of the 
streets," independent unions. Solidarities. 
Even in the U.S. Even now, here and there. 
There's no need to fear working-class 
power. It is precisely in coming together to 
exercise such power that the "stupid, 
bigoted brutal" workers shed their stupid- 
ity, bigotry and brutality — the psycholo- 
gical and cultural byproducts of slavery — 
and begin thinking and acting in new ways. 
The Civil Rights movement, one of the 
largest recent exercises of working-class 
power in this country (who did most of the 
sitting-in, boycotting, striking, marching, 
but workers and their children?) resulted in 
a 50% drop in violent crime throughout the 
South while it lasted. In the Seattle General 
Strike of 1919, the workers ran that city 
(including communal kitchens and laun- 
dries) for a week. They made a rough 
port-and-timber town so peaceful that it 
could be successfully policed by unarmed 
workingmen. What we should fear is the 
power of political bureaucrats and "revolu- 

tionary intellectuals" acting in the people's 
name, colonizing their organs of decision 
and action, dominating their debates, 
leeching the power out of their hands in the 
name of "efficiency" and "discipline." It 
is that power, not workers' power, we see 
in the monstrosity usually called socialism 
or communism. 

Which brings us to the question of 
Utopia. Marx and other genuine revolu- 
tionaries of the nineteenth century opposed 
utopianism because they understood that 
the new society would (as other PWers 
have pointed out here) be the collective 
creation of countless people acting unfore- 
seeably. For reasons much too complex to 
go into here, the old workers' movement 
these revolutionaries were part of failed, 
and the capitalist-statist system tri- 
umphed. In the process, it managed to cut 
off the working people of the developed 
countries not only from the more radical 
moments of their own history, but from any 
different kind of life-experience or set of 
values against which the system's could be 
measured (e.g. the tribe, the farming 
village). The system came to surround us 
on all sides, largely dominating language, 
imagination, thought. For this reason, I 
believe that Utopian thinking — the sus- 
tained effort to imagine another human 
world without hierarchical power, national 
frontiers, patriarchy, or the exploitation of 
people or nature — has become essential for 
radical change. 

Fortunately, the system remains contra- 
dictory, continually impelling people to 
rebel against various aspects of itself. Such 
rebellion ranges from tiny, invisible every- 
day revolts like go-slows, sabotage and 
absenteeism, through strikes, demonstra- 
tions, large-scale civil disobedience and 
direct action, to movements like those in 
Poland in 1980-81 or South Africa today. 
True, all but the largest and most coherent 
of these revolts tend either to subside 


without leaving any significant trace, or 
else (as to some extent with the Civil 
Rights, women's, gay, ecology and peace 
movements) to become mere feedback 
loops by which the system corrects itself. 
On the other hand, any real social struggle, 
however small, provides a chance for 
people to experience at first hand the 
voluntary cooperation, solidarity, open 
debate and collective decision-making on 
which (I believe) the new society must be 
based. Only such experience can break the 
barriers of isolation imposed by the work- 
for-pay system and its corollaries — the 
single-family home, the shrivelling of com- 
munity, the rule of the mass media. Only 
such experience can make Utopia more 
than wistful dreaming for the many, by 
opening cracks in the smooth facade of the 
system's assumptions. F.L.'s "information 
networks" are very much a part of this 
process — PW is one such, but we need 
plenty more, in preparation for the unpre- 
dictable day when social crisis may break 
out once again (in 1958, could anyone have 
foreseen 1968?). We also need Utopian 
imagining, without which the new oppo- 
sition will fall short or get lost. The French 
critic Michel Abensour said it best: "The 
proper function of Utopia is the education 
of desire." 

■■g-g-g-g^^^-g «g g« mmww ggg ■ I 


1 would like to repeat the point that 
Processed World is a small group of people 
who can't begin to draw a definitive master 
plan for social change. The world has had 
enough small groups that try to dictate for 
everybody a way of life, a religion, an 
economic system, a hemline. 

However, I do think that PW could talk 
more about concrete ways of getting over. 
As a regular temporary office worker, I 
often find myself isolated, struggling to 
find a way to maintain my self-respect, 
energy and at the same time strike a blow 
against the man. It's hard. I have found 
that petty acts of sabotage work wonders in 
preserving some sense of social distance 
and creative rebellion. Still, I find sabotage 
conflicts with wanting to do a 'good job' just 
to make the work interesting (internalized 
Protestant ethic?). One solution is to make 
it all like building sand castles. I absorb 
myself in mundane tasks only to delight in 
their eventual destruction. But even this 
becomes boring and lifeless after a while 
and I long for real creativity. 

I have thought about really organizing an 
office. But over what kinds of issues? 
Health and safety stuff work well and I 
have had moderate success in. raising 
awareness of the danger of VDTs, photo- 
copy machine fumes, stress, and so forth. 
But this emphasis is obviously limited and 

only barely begins to tackle the deeper 
issues of social control and utility. What 
sort of workplaces are organizable? Most 
workers realize that the agents of out- 
spoken rebellion will almost certainly find 
themselves flat-ass on the pavement, 
having accomplished jackshit. This coun- 
try's labor laws and labor unions continue 
to be sorrier and sorrier jokes. Workers 
councils can be effective. My idea of 
councils is pretty informal. I envision 
workers ignoring official hierarchical struc- 
tures and just getting together outside of 
the workplace at a local bar or cafe to talk 
about different ways to organize produc- 
tion or pressure the boss. The place I am 
working at now has a structure like this in 
place. It works pretty well, but funny, it is 
male dominated and as a result of its clan- 
destineness, undemocratic. 

But is worrying about 'how to organize' a 
way of ignoring the forms of resistance that 
already exist in most offices? Most places I 
find myself in have elaborate gossip net- 
works, stiff etiquette of relations between 
supervisors and their charges, clear recog- 
nition of varying capabilities and toleran- 
ces among the workers. Simply describing 
all of this is an important project. It is clear 
that organizational models developed for 
19th and early 20th century industrial shop 
floors are unsuitable for contemporary 
offices and robotized factories. If we are to 
develop effective models, we need to pay 
attention to what is actually happening. My 
disappointment with PW is that we don't 
do more of this. 

One last comment — I don't believe in 
privileging workplace politics. Other issues 
(peace, racism, ecology, feminism...) moti- 
vate some people more than dealing with 
some bullshit job. I guess all you can do is 
pick up the pieces where you find them. 

Hello there... ^^ 

I love to cook and act in the theatre and 
ride my bike a great deal and I write poetry 
and I work in an office downtown. 

I was introduced to Processed World by 
a cynical body-builder. She's also my boss. 
I work under the table for the US Court: 
isn't that ironic? Isn't that typical? 

I like working here because I can talk 
dirty to my boss, because I don't have to 
comb my hair, because every once in a 
while I get to drink a beer while I busily 
type away, because I get to watch the bums 
outside the window rummage through the 
garbage. You see, our office has a locked 
door and a mirrored glaze on the window. 
We can see out... but they can't see in. It 
clarifies perspective, and when you know 
where you are it makes observation valid. 

Enclosed are some observations I've 

made about the processed world with 
which we are intrinsically entombed, about 
the processed food we suck, about the 
processed art we buy, about the processed 
airwaves that tiptoe and then pounce on us 
from boxes of all shapes and sizes. 

I'll be watching from behind my office 
window. I'll be eating a carry-out sand- 
wich. I'll sing in any color I please. I'll 
insult corporate whores and big business 

Your toy and mine, 
M.Q. —Tucson, AZ 



Here I sit in a classroom in a high school 
in suburbia. The students are having a 
discussion, defying the teacher's quest for 
control (how rebellious of them!). 

The height of the conversation is a new 
situation comedy and confessions of what 
was watched on TV last night. They have 
memorized a day by day account of what's 
on, when, what channel, and of course a 
full knowledge (and belief, I almost like to 
think) of fictional happenings on the tube. 

This happens every day here in Subur- 
bia. What has happened to what was 
supposed to be a free thinking country, 
political awareness, intelligence, and just 
plain intellectualism? Why aren't these 



kids discussing their futures, their feel- 

Most of these people are going to be 
living in suburbia all their lives. It is 
incorporated into their minds that the 
socially accepted ideal, success, is to: get 
married, get a well-paying job, buy a house 
in suburbia, and have children. 

What commonly happens in result is: 
divorce, a job they hate, a house in subur- 
bia, out of control children. And of course 
the Television God. 

TV sets ideals for these sheep. It is far 
more corrupting than it is educating. I 
suppose it's not what you watch, but how 
you watch it. 

Donna the Dead — Concord, CA 


Fellow Button Pushers, 

Having been a programming denizen of 
the processor world for eight years and 
being more prone to bohemian life than 
that of a three piece suit. Burberry trench- 
coat and condo. Processed World is a wel- 
come alternative to the blind acceptance of 
computers by the popular press. I got into 
the computer field basically by the back 
door. My first job with computers was in 
work/study in college. All work no study, 
keypunching maintenance requests for 
plugged toilets cracked casements, and 
decollating three part forms. The education 
began when the twitching DP director 
wanted me to phoney up some statistics for 
him to present to who knows what com- 
mittee. The relationship deteriorated after 
I refused. As a graduate student in 
Education I rapidly learned that most 
people were not only totally ignorant of 
what a computer actually did but were 
afraid of it as well. Educational research 
types are in love with numbers. Feel it 
lends a scientific validity to their mumb- 
lings, I guess. At any rate I was able to pay 
for peanut butter with the money I made 
analyzing dissertation data, professor's 
research data, and doing some general 
purpose learning simulation of the admis- 
sion policy of the university. The goal was 
essentially to find out if they could accept a 
lesser grade of student who had more 
Money and still maintain a good public 
image relative to the sex, race, creed and 
national origin demographics of the stu- 
dent body. Raygun had just been elected 
and they could see the student finance 
programs dying on the vine. Rationalizith 
the Dean "Economic success is the best 
indicator of intelligence." (Or marrying 
into the right family eh old man?) 

Having fled again I find myself program- 
ming for the business world, awful 
automation, systems to count beans, 
menus, masks, screens of whatever you 


care to call them for customer service 
personnel to stare into all day. Meaning 
less financial reports that everyone admits 
they never look at. (Then why are you 
paying me to write it?). 

One of the Mismanagement trade 
papers had a piece about Jack Kilby, "who 
invented the integrated circuit in 1958... 
confesses he just never thought of all the 
uses for the IC but he did know it was an 
important discovery. " No Jack, I'll bet you 
never did. 

Fassl — Chicago 


Dear Processed World, 

What the bloody hell?! Thought I would 
drop you people a few lines! I'm still a 
prisoner in the Missouri Dept. of Cor- 
rections! I'll inform (you) when I get 
released. Which will be Oct., 1986! 
Goddamn I'm looking forward to getting 
out and finding me a J.O.B.! The parole 
board wasn't impressed when I answered 
the question: "What are your plans if you 
were released today?" Answer: "Oh... I'll 
get a part-time job and go fishing every 
summer and I have a friend who—" "We 
see here in your file that you have never 
held a job for a period any longer than four 
months. Why is that? " I could have easily 
answered something like: "It's none of 
your business, frog brain! " I'm compas- 
sionate though! Instead, I said: "Well, I do 
a lot of traveling, see." I knew though that 
none of them "saw," so what the bloody 
hell? I like PW probably too much. No 
really! I'm impressed with the letters you 
print, and the stories are great! I was once 
a salesman for a rip-off chemical company. 
If anyone needs info on how to lie, cheat, 
and steal hard earned greenbacks from 
gullible folks, then baby I can open your 
grey-cells up to an enlightened level that 
will blow your crapping mind! Don't get 
me wrong, huh?! I've got a conscience! 
That's why I'm a poor bumming anarchist! 
I'm the lowest class bum there is! If by 
chance there is even a lower class bum 
even lower or just as low as me, then you 
can't rest easy knowing that something 
somewhere is about to come unglued; and 
I'm not speaking of "red-baiting" either 

An Anarchist to Death! — S.S. — MO 

Sometimes things don't go the way you 
want them to. Sometimes things never 
"go." If you've ever been bored then you 
know how I feel right now. Sitting around 
doing nothing at all except being bored. 
This bored life is really a drag. 

I really don't like being bored. Some- 
times though — if this seems ironic — I'd 
rather be bored than work at a job. This 
may sound anti-social, but I'm bored and I 
don't have much else to speculate on. 
Except, being bored. And this is a drag. 

I can think of a million things I could be 
doing right now, but I'm in prison and I 
can't do those things I would really want 
to do. Then again, I'm so bored I probably 
wouldn't even do "those things" I can 
think of to do to better pass my time. 

I'm bored. I'm very bored. I'm almost 
sick with boredom. There should be a law 
against boredom. That way we never could 
be bored, unless we got so bored that we 
couldn't help ourselves from being bored 
and then be sent to jail to get even more 

I won't always stay bored. But I'm bored 
now, and that is the way it is. I've been 
bored for months. Maybe tomorrow I won't 
be bored. But who can say? I'm bored now; 
I've been bored; and chances are I'll be 
bored until I am no longer bored. 

FromSomeone Who is Bored — S.S., MO 

Dear PW, 

Your publication is dynamite! I very 
much enjoyed reading issue 13... I'd like to 
submit a biting, colorful, cynical, rehash- 
of-reality of how I obtained SSI at age 33 
(1982) and the facts thereof. I love to write. 
(I should be writing my book (about pros- 
titution and my personal experiences/ad- 
ventures) that I began in '81, the same year 
I applied for SSI...) So many everyday 
insanities/realities/myths to contend with 
moment by moment! Your writers in issue 
13 echo and magnify what countless of us 
feel/see/hear/think/experience! Yeah, I 
was blown away... I'm 36 now... often wish 
I was an innocent-arrogant 22 again.. some- 
times feel like I'm 50. by myself but 
not alone in a H.U.D. project which of 
course is pseudo-socialized housing for the 
"low-income" — a nice term for POOR, 
disenfranchised people on the edges of the 

What it all comes down to is that there's 
simply too many damn people in our 
country and the world! (I had a tubal 
ligation by choice in '73!) This violent- 
insane country-society is experiencing and 
manifesting the affects of a population 
explosion that's been exploding for 30 
years!! You know there's too many damn 
OVER BREEDERS! I've been erotically 
intimate with; sucked cocks of, played 
with, danced with, talked with, socialized 
with numerous people of many races and 
nationalities, of both sexes. I'm an atheist 
with Buddhist leanings — but damn-it-to- 
hell! ALL the races are creating/repro- 
ducing too many other humans! I'm sick of 
self righteous-nazi-dykes and others with 


white-liberal-guilt asserting that we're all 
racist! It all boils down to this economic 
system of capitalism and so-called Christi- 
anity! Religious hype-tripe-crap that's 
spread and spread into a huge, over- 
whelming cancer all over this planet! 

By the way. ..this is "recycled" paper. I 
like to at least help save TREES, as well as 
money, spent on xeroxing and typing- 
paper sheets. I also like to share the stuff 
printed on the back of my letters... (I had a 
C.E.T.A. job at our recycling center. I 
loved it. After 4 months, of course, A^O job. 
End of contract for this kind of "subsidized 
slavery" —/ree workers for organizations 
who have to beg & cry for funding.) 
Since I receive a few crumbs from the 
gov't, each month to survive on and pinch 
my pennies for my obsession-passion for 
taking pictures, experiencing photography, 
capturing reality in an image of my own 
creation. I wish, if I had a hot-shot job and 
a good-car, I could zoom up to S.F. and 
share in your socializing and talks and visit 
you people. (You're more than welcome to 
call me & come visit Sanity-Cruz and let me 
take you on a surrealistic-tour!) (Really! No 
shit!) We've become a miniature-Manhat- 
tan of sorts. With a county, (growing), of 
"only" 200,500 or so, we've got about one 
of everything that exists in a metropolis 
including one "dirty" book store; one 
"gay " bar, and one ghetto. Used to have a 
dirty-movie-porno-theatre. The owner who 
lived in San Mateo with 2 wives, five cars, 
three other porno-theatres, got chased out 
of here by legal-petition means and the 
fire marshall. I WORKED as a cashier & 

photo: Rachel Johnson 

answered telephones at the dirty-movie 
place.. for about a month. I wrote a great- 
eye-opening article about the job-place. 
(Didn't get paid... it was in a weekly "al- 
ternative," poor-post-hippie-newspaper). 
I've had incredible adventure/misadven- 
tures in trying to 'fit'— to do a job, be 
employed in "straight" day to day occu- 
pations... Are you interested? You're not a 
tight-mostly-fraternity-of-editors- writers, 
are you? I'm also a compassionate, 
sensitive, affectionate, curious individual 
who shares concerns with all kinds of 
people, including my 2 cats and my 
overbreeding neighbors. 

Sincerely & frighteningly yours, 
A.S. —Santa Cruz, CA 
P.S. I cheered & smirked at the Kelly-Girl 
Klone article!! My hobbies are: smoking 
cigarettes & masturbating & biting my 


Dear PW, 

During the past two and a half years I 
have been working in San Francisco as a 
clerk, secretary, receptionist, and technical 
assistant. I am a male who is married and 
have one child who is now 15 months of 
age. It is from this San Francisco office 
experience that I have come to understand 
the meaning of wage-slavery and its effects 
on the joys of parenting in this processed 

During the first three months of our 

child's life both my wife and I were at 
home. That was a truly joyful time despite 
the fact of depending solely on unemploy 
ment benefits. The household work did not 
interfere with parenting, like the 9-to-5 
work-a-day-worid does, mainly because 
housework did not deny the desire to be 
with my family. But after returning to the 
work force, the restrictions and exploita- 
tions of the corporate office world became 
painfully clear. 

From the start, I felt unnerved by the job 
that I was doing called document retrieval. 
I had retrieved documents for myself and 
others during my school and work study 
days, but I didn't remember the task as 
being so odious. At this job, however, I saw 
how the rapacious business psychology of 
the profit motive induces management to 
attempt to shape the behavior, outlook, 
and soul of the worker. 

The receptionist was laid off one day and 
for quite some time I had two jobs, the one 
that I was hired for and then as receptionist 
to boot. Still receiving my original one-job 
salary and willing to "help out" for a 
while, the days turned into many weeks. 

Arriving home on those evenings I 
seemed to lack the energy for the kind of 
interaction that is truly rewarding for any 
family. Total relaxation, if not deep sleep, 
was wanted on the menu and thus even 
dinner could become just another task of 
the day, food to be processed. The frenzied 
workpace of the day carried over to the 
evening. At times I would ask, what have I 
done today? Has the day's work helped to 
improve or only to sustain my family? 

Working there was a horror. Never 
before had I seen how the profit motive 
destroys life. And it was not only the 
workers there who were exploited, but the 
University of California libraries as well. 
The corporate design of the multiversity 
goes well beyond mere business propa- 
ganda and extends to transforming the 
university libraries into photocopying fac- 
tories of the multinationals. So there I was 
working to provide for my family by slaving 
all day at providing the companies that are 
destroying the earth with the information 
needed to carry out their destruction. And 
in the office I had to refer to the job as 
"professional document retrieval." Could I 
come home at the end of the day and 
partake in any real meaningful interaction 
with my wife or child? 

There were many more facets of that job 
that were detrimental to family-life, and 
my suggestion of on-site child care was just 
one more reason to be ridiculed and 
harassed by my bosses. The denial of 
on-site child care is especially discrimi- 
nating against males. In order for child 
care responsibilities to be equally shared 
among women and men, we have to 
debunk the idea that only single working 
mothers have the need for child care 
facilities at their places of work. Capitalism 


says that I have to work eight hours a day — 
So I do. But why shouldn't we wage slaves 
at least have the satisfaction of spending 
our 15 minute breaks with our children? Or 
would on-site child care facilities allow the 
children to see what was ahead and thus 
resist their processing for the office of the 

After being fired for having a "bad 
attitude" I was hired as a clerk-typist at a 
local non-profit institution. Although I was 
determined not to work for a profit-seeking 
employer, the economic necessity of find 
work right away led me to accept the first 
thing that come along. Although the work- 
load is not quite as heavy as before, I am 
still away from my child all day and 
receiving only enough money to eat and 
pay rent. I do not come home as tired as I 
used to, but I do still tend to be somewhat 
uneasy due to the authoritarian constraints 
of the day. 

So I read PW wanting to hear more 
because it all sounds so true. I hope more 
people both read and write about the other 
side of the corporate money economy and 
this mess it has us all in. 

P.M.— San Francisco 

thing), not much protest happened. But we 
3 sleuth waitresses questioned our bosses, 
defied the rules as often as we could and 
supported each other when the anger and 
frustration became so burdensome, it 
nearly exploded out of us. It's no fun being 
watched closely and judged by fellow 
workers. The rest of the summer made us 
all kinda nervous. 

I'm now back at school and only working 
part-time but the same tactics are being 
used. Currently there are many more 
employees but management still tries to 
set us up against each other so no real 

Dear folks at PW, 

I worked last summer waitressing in a 
bar. It was fairly slow at first but became 
very busy over July & August. The ten of 
us worked together in harmony until early 
in August when our boss (who had always 
been a reasonable and approachable 
person) called a staff meeting and accused 
us all of stealing money. She was pretty 
wily, didn't give any of us enough infor- 
mation to make the situation clear but the 
accusations flew. Needless to say, we were 
all stunned. She spoke to the bartenders 
and the waitresses separately, causing 
suspicion and division among us. After I 
had gotten over the initial shock of the 
"charge" brought against us, I realized 
how our boss had virtually set us up 
against each other. A couple of the other 
waitresses and myself did some skutting 
and found out that the profits had dropped 
by $10,000 in the month of July, but 
instead of checking out attendance num- 
bers or figuring that people may not be 
drinking as much cos they have no income, 
management immediately blamed us. Be- 
cause some of the people I worked with 
were really oppressed by the danger of 
losing their job (funny how people can feel 
guilty even when they haven't done any- 

solidarity happens. Fortunately there are 
enough people who refuse to be co-opted 
into spying on their fellow workers — these 
are my friends and they help to keep my 
faith in human dignity alive. 

But then there's my friend Dan who's 
mostly genius and a superb woodworker 
who gets paid $4 an hour to churn out 
cheap furniture that people can afford but 
don't appreciate. He's frustrated cos he 
can't produce the beauty that's in his head. 

And my friend Frieda, who's an out- 
rageously talented seamstress and artist 
who lives on welfare cos she can't bring 
herself to sell her skills the way our society 
compels us to. 

And Lawrence who tries to find jobs for 
guys who are out on parole — these people 
can be and are sent back to jail because 
they're not looking hard enough for work! 
It's hard enough to find a job, much more 
so if you have a "record." 

It reminds me of the old unemployment 

insurance blues — they'll penalize you for 
quitting your job, expect you to be satisfied 
to live on % of your wage (which was 
probably peanuts to start with), and then 
cut you off if you dare to get so depressed 
that you stop looking for the job you know 
isn't out there. (Victoria has the second 
highest rate of unemployment in Canada.) 

I hate the system we live in and some- 
times I feel crushed by it. I'm trying to do 
some learning but the university here isn't 
exactly a hotbed of political awareness. Too 
many silly kids with vacant minds and 
designer clothes. Too many profs who are 
hellbent on perpetuating the lies we 
continue to be taught. 

I guess I'll just keep trying to develop my 
humanness so I won't get brainwashed into 
thinking it's a fantasy to want the 
emotional warmth that comes from being 
close to other people. (In my paranoid 
moments, I get to thinking the computeri- 
zation of most everything will gradually 
turn us into robots 1) But I grew a vegetable 
garden this summer and picked berries 
that grew in the woods (for free) so I could 
make jam and wine to keep the winter at 
bay, and these days I hug my friends a lot 
and turn my face to the sun when it pokes 
through the clouds. I also read Processed 
World which is a joy cos of your great 
sense of humor about a world that's 
sometimes hard to find anything funny in, 
but mostly cost it's always a reminder that 
lots of us are out there, still fighting, still 

Thanks & much love, 
J. H. -P. -Victoria. B.C. 

Dear Processed World, 

I used to find your magazine amusing, 
but Drugs: A Corrosive Social Cement 
[PW #11] made me realize how utterly 
thoughtless you people can be. 

"Taking pleasure in one's own thought 
processes, perceptions, and feelings can be 
a genuinely subversive experience" —well 
of course 1 But this is clearly the main 
reason to reject the use of drugs. A wise 
person once said, "If you cannot spout 
profound ideas and insights while straight, 
then they are not yours to begin with." 
Ever heard the expression, "Don't take 
him seriously — that's the liquor talking"? I 
say drugs are the total opposite of "taking 
pleasure in one's own thought processes, 
perceptions, and feelings." 

Your writer babbles on and on about the 
insight and pleasure to be derived from 
surrendering one' mind, however temp- 
orarily, to a stupid chemical. Be real! 
These feelings are illusions at best, and 
comparing them to self-acquired insight 
and pleasure is like comparing being 
strapped into a rollercoaster to going skate- 




• 40 hours a week 

• 50 weeks a year 

• For the Rest of Your Life! 

^■■wa ■■■■■■■ ■■■■■■■■■■■'gggggi 

boarding or skiing. It is like comparing TV 
soap operas and singles bar/prostitute sex 
to real social relations. 

Granted, dealing with reality requires a 
great deal of input and risk, but what is the 
benefit of greater awareness of the dream 
world of drugs? To refer to drug induced 
stupor as "another state of mind" is an 
insult to one's true need for real fulfill- 
ment, in the only existing state of mind, 
which is reality. Again: drug experiences 
are illusions, and one can no more learn 
from them than one could drink from a 
mirage in the desert. 

Furthermore, I can't help but feel that 
the "cool" image of drugs today, like the 
"cool" image of corporate music, art, and 
fashion, is just another step to induce sub- 
mission. Opiates are now the religion of the 
people, and we all know how much our op- 
pressors love to see us dummy up to any- 
thing that would make us feel weak and 

As for the rest of your magazine, I see a 
basic contradiction. You protest the unfair- 
ness of your jobs, yet refuse to simply quit 
because you demand a higher standard of 
living than the majority of the world's 
population! You demand the money to 
make others grow your food, shine your 
shoes, etc. In The Tyranny of Time, 
Mead-O questions the liberating value of 
quitting, "unless you possess the personal 
resources (both monetary and psycho- 
logical) to transcend the system." Well, 
whose fault is it that you are so materialis- 
tic anyway? Why don't you just turn off the 
stupid TV and stop running out and buying 
everything that you've been told will 
ensure your happiness? You know full well 

that you could survive on the cash from a 
half hour's worth of aluminum can collect- 
ing each day. Why can't you accept that 
the only real reason why you must work so 
much is because you demand so much? Are 
you in charge of your desires or do they 
control you? Does your definition of 
success center around how well one 
controls one's desires or how well one 
submits to them? 

Perhaps more space in your magazine 
ought to be devoted to protest of the truly 
manipulative working conditions which 
exist primarily overseas. Our problems are 
nothing compared to those of a laborer in 
India, an artist under communism, or even 
the most well educated of blacks in South 
Africa (everyone must help expose the lies 
we are being told about "constructive 
engagement" and other so-called re- 
forms). Hopefully you will find space for 
this letter, and I am enclosing my address 
for any who want to respond. I've written a 
book which I give out in hope of opening 
intelligent discussion and to trade for the 
projects of others. Thanks. Bye. 

Richard A., Box 16002, 
Arlington, VA 22215 

Dear P.W., 

Let's face it, being surrounded by maybe 
friends and lovers, making thousands of 
dollars a day, and doing it from the comfort 
of our own yacht, sounds like a pretty 
appealing way to make a living to most 
people. With a couple of hundred bucks, a 
couple of contacts and a little business 
savvy, that life could be yours in less than a 
year. How you may ask? Simple, deal 
drugs, any and all drugs, and if you don't 
over-indulge in your product sampling, the 
money, friends and freedom that comes 
with being your own boss, is yours. 

Sound too good to be true, wondering 
where the catch is, and how do I know it 
works? Good questions and maybe I'll 
answer them out of that great fount of 
wisdom. Personal Experience. 

Enough of that late night TV commer- 
cial, no more comic book come-ons and 
cereal box sweepstakes. I like the article on 
drugs in Processed World #11.1 won't go 
into specific complaints about some of the 
details, I'd rather concentrate on a simple 
note based on my own observations. Don't 
expect a Diary of a Drug Fiend, it's been 
done before. 

Drug dealing is a ' Chicago boys' style 
free enterprise zone that exists in every 
suburb and city in this country. I write 
specifically of the illegal drug economy, 
although the line between the legal and 
illegal world exists primarily in the minds 
and jail cells of the body of lawyers, 
politicians, religionists, academics, social 
workers and police officials whose liveli- 
hoods depend upon the existence of such 
laws that separate the good from the bad. 
It is part of the vast world of the shadow 

economy that surrounds the legal one just 
as traditional cultures and old religions 
surround and infest, and even feed the 
world of Christianity, that bastion of order, 
illumination and legality in an otherwise 
pagan world. Every office of corporate 
order is the breeding ground of illicit 
sexual affairs, computer time theft, get 
rich quick scams by bored minds in thinly 
partitioned cubicles, secret admirers of the 
amazing nerve of the scam kings at the top, 
the bored of Directors. Secret anarchists 

Drugs, ha, securities rip offs, back office 
deals with the corporate officer on leave of 
absence to perform a few jobs as a 
presidential aid. Ed Meese, for example, is 
Attorney General, bad news for California 
pot dealers, good news for Afghani heroin 
importers. If you want to get rich, ya got to 
play the game. No honest working stiff got 
anything better than an imitation silk lined 
coffin. No honest christian soul, good party 
worker, or faithful of any sort got anything 
in this life beyond a few comforting 
thoughts to wear like the baby's security 
blanket, the blanket at least, was warm. 

Dreaming the revolution is about as good 
as watching it on TV. It's about as relevant 
as chastising the terrible drug addict for 
not facing the facts with the correct 
deluded ideals. It's like the christians 
arguing over whether Christ is coming next 
week or next year. Who is going to save 
you? As it has always been, Anarchy is 
where the heart is. How you bide your time 
in social relations is your own business. If 
you must associate (and you must) associ- 
ate freely. The big lie is the world of the 
system. Scratch any adult and a child waits 
to be set free. Questions answered? 

Gary Rumor — S.F. 
P.S. I'm on probation and anything I say 
can be used against me and probably will. 

of the copies made on a company's 
Xerox machine have nothing whatsoever 
to do with official company business 

Mad magazine ^^ 



■V H K H * M^ ^ H X M " H "V »< ■ >C >t iC 



Just How Equal 
Can We Be? 

HE post WWII baby-boomers are starting a 
'baby-boom of their own, as no one can fail to 
notice. My neighborhood was once predomi- 
nantly inhabited by childless adults. Now three 
moderate to expensive new baby stores have opened, 
and for the less affluent, the baby section of the local 
St. Vincents has expanded by several racks. The parks 
are full of snuggly laden parents and baby carriages, 
and a number of new magazines on "parenting" and 
"mothering" have taken their place beside the 
magazines for the "new working woman" that 
appeared in the '70s. 

Of course, in many neighborhoods the babies never 
did stop coming. The preoccupation with children is a 
novelty mainly for those of us in our late twenties and 
thirties whose decision to postpone having children 
followed, in part, a conscious rejection of the traditional 
setup of our parent's generation. 

Many of us who are new mothers have been deeply 
affected by the feminist and radical movements of the 
past decades. Because the second wave (post WWII) 
feminist movement was originally focused on how to 
get out of the imprisoning role of "housewife," it 
devalued childrearing to a certain extent. Having 
children was tantamount to selling out, since there 
seemed to be no way a woman could preserve her 
independence if she was bound to the obligations of 

But for many of us now, the decision to have children 

does not mean we have turned our backs on feminist 
values, rather, points to our determination to face the 
challenge of raising our children without reverting to 
the traditional primary identity of dependent mother- 
and-housewife. This means we must find ways of 
balancing our valued independence with new parental 
roles and obligations. In particular, it means a much 
more equal distribution of childcare.* 

My own experience in sharing childcare with my 
partner, described in some detail below, was more 
complicated and conflict-ridden than the generally 
accepted feminist convictions on the subject had led me 
to believe it would be. But it also confirmed what 
feminists have been saying for years. Our efforts to 
balance responsibility for child and home gave me more 
opportunity to pursue outside interests and less cause 
to resent my child's at times-tyrannical hold over my 
life. Becoming intimately involved in our baby's needs 
and accomplishments on a daily basis has provided my 
partner with a whole range of emotional experience, 
which Marguerite Duras once referred to as the 
"explosion of the ego." He has discovered the 

* I am addressing the question from the point of view of a 
heterosexual parent-couple living together, monogamous or not, 
living communally or not. Obviously, there are many households this 
does not address. But I am writing informed by my experience. I 
hope this will not be taken as a plug for heterosexuality or as a 
condemnation of single-parent families, but rather, if anything, as a 
call for special consideration and support for people in this situation. 
I know several single mothers who have made conscious planned 
decisions, which is I strongly suspect a more healthy environment 
than unwanted kids in two parent households. 



^ ^ 

/"^NO! Not ANOTHER^ 
'^^poopy diaper!! ^ 


■&» -<^~)l 





\ ^^~,i«\ ' 

'Pace It, you're not cut out for thi$^ 
kind of work. Susan's better at it... 
kLet her do it! - -^ 


However, less easily or widely talked 
about is the fact that these externally 
imposed conditions are often supported 
and reproduced by women's own beha- 
vior. Recently, some feminists have 
begun to argue that we cannot under- 
stand the persistence of male institu- 
tional power over women without del- 
ving into the deeply rooted psychological 
differences that underlie gender, in 
doing so, they have confirmed our earlier 
intuitions about the importance of 
shared child rearing in the early years. 

Two authors in particular, Nancy 
Chodorow and Dorothy Dinnerstein ar- 
gue that the pervasive, underlying 

the separation less complete than for 
boys, because they continue to identify 
with mom as being of the same sex. The 
resulting permeability of women's ego 
boundaries is the basis for women's 
desires to be mothers themselves. It is 
also explains why women's lives tend 
more than men's to center around 
personal relationships, and why they 
find it harder to formulate separate 
interests and act on them. The impera- 
tive for boys to separate so completely 
from their mothers also leads them to 
devalue women in order to affirm their 
independence. Chodorow concludes that 
to avoid the harmful consequences of 

t^r?frrr^^»»»w^^^^»w^^y^r^^^^■»^ ^ ^^■^^ ^t^^^^■?^»^» ^ ?^?^^^^*^?^■?^^-*^?■^^ ■^ ^^^■^ t»^ ^^^^^ ^ *^-*-*-''J^*^^' ' ^^ 

I had seen how other friends slipped back into a situation where mom was 
handed the baby when it needed consolation or a diaper change, and dad was 
absolved... because he was bringing home the bacon. 

"maternal" generosity that is rewarded 
so tangibly and directly with the uncon- 
ditional love and trust of another being, 
and has gained a more sympathetic 
understanding of "feminine" roles. 

Eroding Gender Identities 

Another, more future-oriented reason 
for wanting our partners to participate 
fully in childcare is to help our children 
see beyond gender stereotypes from an 
early age, and thus be better able to 
combat them. 

Of course, we (and our children as 
they grow) still confront inequalities that 
persist throughout society, from wage 
and job discrimination to judicial tol- 
erance of the physical abuse and 
intimidation directed against women, to 
culture and media saturated with sexist 
imagery. All of these problems have 
been exhaustively analyzed in feminist 
writing. t 

t In tile following discussion I have not dwelt 
on the broader social and economic changes 
that have transformed the conditions of 
family life (e.g., by drawing women into the 
workforce). This is not because I consider 
them less important or determinant than the 
more specific, personal questions discussed 
here, but rather because they have received 
more attention and have been adequately 
analyzed in many other articles (in Processed 
World, "Roots of Disillusionment" in PW 6 
and "Female Troubles" in PW 3). For similar 
reasons I have avoided a discussion on 
communal childrearing. Much has been 
written about the results (usually discourag- 
ing) of such experiments. Besides, except for 
a few cases such as Israeli kibbutzim the 
issues discussed below are relevant whether 
or not parents live communally, since in any 
case biological parents usually continue to 
have primary responsibility for their very 
young children. 

mysogyny and the subordinate role of 
women are strongly determined by the 
fact that women are, by and large, the 
sole primary caretakers of children. The 
intimate and near-exclusive dependent 
relationship of an infant to their mother 
creates psychological dynamics that can 
lead to, or at least reinforce, crippling 
gender splits. 

Generally speaking, men in this 
culture are emotionally more self-con- 
tained, less expressive and 'in touch" 
with the feelings of those around them, 
yet they have a stronger sense of self 
than women, who tend to define them- 
selves more in relation to others and 
have a greater need and capacity for 
intimacy and nurturing. When these dif- 
ferences become extreme, relations be- 
tween the sexes grow difficult, and 
social/political equality is impossible. 
Men are ruthlessly individualistic, dis- 
dainful of women and incapable of the 
emotional intimacy women desire, while 
women lack the confidence to become 
independent subjects in the world at 
large, and are self-sacrificial yet resent- 
ful of men's capacity for detachment and 

Chodorow traces these personality dif- 
ferences between the sexes to the 
differing relationships mothers have to 
their sons and daughters. Every child 
must go through a process of separation 
from their mother, the first step in 
evolving an identity of their own. For 
boys, separation and individuation is 
facilitated by the recognition that they 
are unlike their mothers, a fact that 
mothers also underscore by their beha- 

For girls, the relationship with their 
mother is longer and more intimate and 

extreme gender differentiation men 
must participate in the primary care of 
children. In this way, infants can develop 
close, intimate ties to both same-sex and 
different-sex adults. 

Dinnerstein sees resentment against 
woman in society at large as stemming 
from the infant's helpless dependence 
on her/his mother. In the limited world 
of the infant, mother is omnipotent, and 
consequently, she is blamed for anything 
that goes wrong. Furthermore, when the 
child strives to be independent he/she 
resents the continuing need for mom. 
Infantile resentment and rage initially 
directed against the power of one 
woman, turns into fear, anger and 
resentment against powerful women in 
general. Like Chodorow, Dinnerstein 
concludes that men must get involved in 
childcare early in infants' lives. In this 
way, negative feelings carried over from 
infancy will become less gender-linked; 
women will not be saddled with deeply- 
ingrained associations of fear and resent- 

Other researchers reject a psychoana- 
lytic approach in favor of models of child 
development that place greater empha- 
sis on early exposure to gender stereo- 
types. A recent example of this analysis 
is Sandra Bem's article in Signs (Sum- 
mer 1983). Bem argues that children get 
ideas about sexual identity according to 
a set schedule of intellectual develop- 
ment. However, the specific ideas they 
get about sexual identity depends on 
their observations and experience, par- 
ticularly of their closest role-models — 
that is, in most cases, their parents. 
Sex-stereotyping in children can be 
avoided, Bem claims, by eliminating dif- 
ferences in what parents do with their 



children, for example, by ensuring that 
both male and female parents take turns 
cooking, bathing, etc., and also by 
providing children of both sexes with 
similar toys and clothes. In this way, 
children won't get rigid ideas from 
society about what men and women can 
and can't do or be. 

Both "psychoanalytic" and Bern's 
cognitive/environmental approaches 
agree that gender constraints are forged 
to some extent by the fact that women do 
the lioness' share of bringing up 
children. Seen in this light, getting men 
more intimately involved in caring for 
children becomes an important way 
parents can help their kids get a good 
start on undermining the sex/gender 
stereotypes in our society. 

But Putting It Into Practice... 

This theoretical background influ- 
enced me greatly so that by the time my 
partner and I finally decided to have a 
child, after years of deliberation, we 
solemnly swore that childcare would be 
divided 50/50. We would each get part- 
time jobs and split domestic/childcare 
and breadwinning duties in half. I had 
seen how other friends slipped back into 
a situation where mom was handed the 
baby when it needed consolation or a 

diaper change, and dad was absolved 
from many primary childcare respon- 
sibilities because he was bringing home 
most of the bacon. I was convinced that 
we would be different because we were 
committed to the idea, and both had 
more or less equivalent money-making 
capabilities (both of us make a living 
manipulating keyboards). Moreover, we 
had close family members nearby who 
were eager to help with childcare and 
some savings to help us through the first 
few months after birth. 

I was not prepared for the difficulties 
in store for us. From the outset, my 
partner was very devoted and took far 
more responsibility for our baby than 
most fathers do. He held her a lot, 
burped her, and took turns with night 
feedings. But despite our best inten- 
tions, for most of the first year of our 
daughter's life, he spent a good deal less 
time with her than I did, and as a result, 
at fourteen months, she is still more 
attached to and easily consoled by me. 
What happened? 

The imbalances began well before our 
daughter was born, in the form of over- 
whelming prejudice about what makes a 
good mother. Like many women of my 
age, I got a lot of my information about 
pregnancy and childcare from the count- 

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Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones 
But We'll Never Do The DishesW 

less new books on the subject. 

Of the three or four most popular 
books I read, (e.g. The Womanly Arts of 
Breastfeeding, published by La Leche 
League, The First 12 Months of Life, by 
Frank Caplan) every one emphasized the 
absolute need of infants for their 
mothers to be with them as much as 

The feminist-inspired midwifery 
movement encourages fathers to get 
informed and participate in childbirth 
preparation. But advice on childcare is 
overwhelmingly directed at mothers and 
relegates fathers to a secondary role of 
relief and support for Mom. 

In much of the expert literature, 
mothers are told that babies need the 
constant loving attention of a single 
person. Only mother has the instincts 
and dedication to respond immediately 
and appropriately to her child's de- 
mands. If she neglects this sacred obli- 
gation, her child will fail to develop a 
sense of security and, according to some 
child development experts, will become 
insecure and grow fearful of others, or 
worse. Mothers are advised to postpone 
going back to work for the first few 
years, if possible. They are encouraged 
to breast-feed as long as possible, using 
breast-pumps or going home during 
lunch breaks to feed baby if they must 

That breast-feeding is once again 
becoming socially acceptable is a good, 
healthy development. But unfortunately, 
extraordinary emphasis on benefits of 
breast-feeding for babies has made it a 
new standard of good mothering. I have 
often heard women speak as though the 
length of time they breastfed was an 
indication of how devoted they were to 
their children (La Leche League). The 
danger is that women will feel obligated 
to continue breastfeeding "for the good 
of the baby" beyond the time when it is 
pleasurable or convenient to them. One 
friend described to me how resentful she 
began to feel every time her 8-month old 
daughter wanted to take the breast. Yet 
because of social pressures, she kept on 
breast-feeding for several months. 

It is discouraging to find that the 
enlightened approach to pregnancy and 





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faith in the youngest generation of Annericans to keep on 
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©ityCorpse's Infant-A-Charge® 

same age who spend much more time 
exclusively with their mothers. 

But not all of my difficulties in getting 
out and pursuing non-baby-reiated in- 
terests were due to social pressures. 
First of all, the inescapable truth is that 
during the first few months after my 
baby's birth I was more prepared to 
devote a lot of my time and energy to 
caring for her, and got more pleasure out 
of it than her father did. Partly this was 
due to the typically feminine personality 
traits which, if Chodorow and Dinner- 
stein are correct, stem from the fact that 
I was raised primarily by my own mother 
in my early years. But what these studies 
downplay is that the physical and 
psychic connection to the baby dev- 
eloped during pregnancy, childbirth, 
and breastfeeding helped to prepare 
me for the intensity of my relationship to 
our baby in a way my partner could not 

childcare that encourages self-reliance 
often goes along with the traditional 
disregard for a woman's desires for a life 
beyond baby. This attitude implies a 
sacrificial attitude towards mothering 
and idealizes the possibility of mother 
being the sole provider of any and all of a 
child's needs and desires. 

As much as I recognized these biases 
and resisted them, I could not avoid 
lingering feelings of guilt and doubt 
when I was away from my child. This 
was reinforced by attitudes of others; 
when friends or acquaintances saw me 
without my baby, they would inevitably 
ask me where she was. At first, before 
they realized how much time he spent 
with her, people rarely asked this 
question of her father when he was out 
and about. When we were together 
socially, questions about her were 
usually directed at me. Many people. 

especially in our parents' generation, 
were puzzled or disapproving or un- 
comprehending of my desires to do 
things which had nothing to do with 

Consequently, every time my daugh- 
ter was particularly fussy or difficult, I 
would be afraid I wasn't spending 
enough time with her, even though I 
gave her at least several hours every 
day, and most of the time several days of 
the week. I finally realized that her 
fussiness was not caused by my absence, 
since its pattern didn't coincide with 
changes in the amount of time I spent 
with her. On the contrary, I noticed that 
at times she fussed because I was frus- 
trated or frenzied after an extended time 
of being with her alone. Moreover, 
although she goes through periods of 
clinginess, she is far more sociable and 
eager to go to others than infants of the 



experience directly. 

In her article "A Biosocial Perspective 
on Parenting" {Daedulus, 1977) Alice 
Rossi argues that there is a "biologically 
based potential for heightened invest- 
ment of mothers in their children, at 
least in the first few months, that 
exceeds the potential for men " She 
refers to recent research in the field of 
neuroendocrinology that points to the 
effects of social stimuli on hormonal 
secretions, as transmitted through the 
nervous system. There are many un- 
learned responses of v^^omen to children 
which, she argues, are physiologically 
based, (in contrast to the Chodorow- 
Dinnerstein theory that the maternal 
"instinct" is first and foremost a cultural 
construct), infant crying, for example, 
stimulates the secretion oxytocin which 
in turns leads to the nipple erection that 
occurs preparatory to breastfeeding. 

Rossi suggest that these biological 
propensities affect the ease with which 
males and females learn to unlearn 
socially defined values regarding mascu- 
line and feminine behavior. It would be 
interesting to study what hormonal 
changes, if any, occur in men in 
response to infants. Rossi's argument is 
not meant to imply that men and women 
are biologically confined to their gender 
roles as they have been established in 
our society. Rather, it means that we 
must recognize differences that do exist 
and find ways of compensating for them. 
In particular, if our goal is to equalize 
parental roles and relationships between 
men and women, we must provide men 
with opportunities to spend time with 
small children and to learn how to care 
for them. This will help close the gap 
produced by the physical experience of 
pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. 

As much as I believe that childcare 
should be equalized, I would not want to 
sacrifice these uniquely female experi- 
ences. The intensity of the first few days 
and weeks of intimacy with my newborn, 
and the sensual pleasure I got out of 
breastfeeding were not only welcome 
rewards for the drudgeries of pregnancy 
and childbirth, but incomparable eu- 
phoric experiences. 

Biological differences have been 
downplayed in much of feminist litera- 
ture for fear of giving credence to con- 
servative sexist arguments. But I believe 
the great changes in society that 
feminists point to would receive wider 
audience and support if they were more 

realistic about the difficulties involved, 
including an acknowledgement of the 
biosocial factors. 

In my own case, though my partner 
was devoted and involved, the dif- 
ferences I perceived in his attentiveness 
and readiness to foresee and respond to 
the child's needs made me feel discour- 
aged and angry with him. These feelings 
stemmed largely from my belief, fol- 
lowing my reading of Chodorow and 
Dinnerstein, that there was, in fact, 
nothing inherent to inhibit equal child- 
care from infancy. 

Once I understood and accepted the 
(partly biological) basis of my deeper 
emotional attachment to our baby, rather 
than trying to deny or discredit it, it 
became easier for my partner and I to 
sort out and compensate for our dif- 
ferences and desires. 

I wanted my partner to spend more 
time with our child, but I was ambivalent 
and uncertain about changing things. 
For one thing, because of my relatively 
greater psychic investment in mother- 
hood, it was harder to regain interest 
and confidence in activities outside 
mothering. Although at times I felt 
burdened and frustrated by my daugh- 
ter's greater attachment to me, there 

were times when it made me feel very 
happy and gratified. 

At some point in the first couple of 
months after her birth, I developed a 
protective attitude towards the baby that 
tended to reinforce real and perceived 
inadequacies. I would watch my partner 
carefully and correct and criticize his 
way of doing things or admonish him 
because I thought he was not being 
attentive enough. My partner responded 
defensively by denying that there were 
any differences in our behavior with the 
child. This led to a kind of vicious circle 
since the more I demonstrated I knew 
better, the less likely he was to take the 
initiative, the more quickly I took over 
and then resented what I saw as his 
indifference or inadequacy. The fact that 
I was always the one who initiated any 
discussion on the subject made me feel 



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_by MaxineHolz 

The Perfect Gift For A Baby Shower! 

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Editor's Introduction 

Monica Slade lives, works and brings up her two 
children in north London, England. She is active in her 
local Labour Party despite her skepticism about 
national electoral politics — i.e. about the idea that a 
new Labour government would bring any significant 
positive change for working people. She argues that the 
local party organizations are a ready-made network 
through which "grassroots" campaigns can be initiated 
and people informed and organized. In support of this 
view, she cites the role of the local parties in organizing 
opposition to nuclear weapons (Labour favors nuclear 
disarmament, at least on paper) and social service cuts, 
as well as support for major strikes such as the miners' 
last year. This article was originally written for the 
magazine London Labour Briefing. 

OT so long ago, children were an unavoidable 
consequence of sexual activity. (And in many 
'places, they still are.) A natural phenomenon, 
totally beyond our control. Like the weather, only 

The constant and substantial burden of childbirth 
and childcare has barred most women, no matter what 
their race, creed, or culture, from development and 
achievement in any other field. So bless Mary Stopes 
and the other pioneers of birth control because it is the 
very thing, the only thing, that frees women from their 

traditional, transcultural shackles. 

True, our present means of birth control are far from 
perfect. But whatever their various drawbacks, these 
are easier to cope with than an unwanted, unloved, 
unaffordable baby. 

Now that we have a choice, we also have to consider 
what we are doing, and why. To bring a child into the 
world means a commitment for life. One from which 
there is no turning back, without causing painful 
emotional traumas to everyone involved. So it is a 
decision which we consider very carefully indeed. 

Ideology and Reality 

Cath Tate, a London Labour Party activist, recently 
wrote; "Women who want to succeed in politics have 
first to overcome the dominant ideology that states that 
our true fulfillment in life comes from being a wife and 
mother. This is still the main barrier to women coming 
forward in representative numbers to stand for 

This is a load of rubbish! It is a right-wing analysis: 
isolationist and competitive. Why? Because it blames 
the individual woman for failing to overcome a problem 
that is in fact communal. It is presented as a psycho- 
logical issue, instead of being recognized for the 
sociological one that it is. There is nothing ideologically 
wrong with women who choose to become mothers. 
(What's the matter, Cath Tate, didn't you have one?) 
But there is something practically wrong with a society 
that doesn't provide some adequate form of communal 


childcare. THIS is THE barrier to women 
coming forward in representative numbers 
for anything that demands serious commit- 

Motherhood as an Act 

of Political Defiance 

Consider the situation: The world is 
being poisoned, polluted, depleted, abused 
and mismanaged on a 'grandiose and 
unprecedented scale. Death and disaster 
will probably follow. Nuclear weapons 
mean we are also under constant threat of 
immediate, painful, and total extinction. 
Two-thirds of the world's people are under- 
nourished or actually dying from hunger 
and thirst. Of the remainder, many are 
poor, unhealthy, live in unhygienic and 
cramped conditions, and largely miss out 
on any further education. 

Almost everywhere capitalism rules. The 
profit-motive is paramount. The interests 
of multinational companies are served — 
and fanatically protected — by sham gov- 
ernments whose claims to be the guardians 
of freedom and democracy are a farce and a 
fallacy. Why should anyone in their right 
mind wish to bring children into this lousy 

Because when we lose the courage to be 
mothers we are truly defeated in our hearts 
and in our minds. When we don't dare to 
have babies anymore because they dim- 
inish our competitiveness, politically and 
commercially, that is when we really accept 
the system for what it is and conform to it. 
It is the surrender of our true and primitive 
nature to capitalism's sick rationale. 

Community and Status 

Community: that includes all of us. 
Many people, mostly women, spend their 
time and energy caring and providing for 
those who are unable to do it for them- 
selves. Not only our children, but also our 
old folk, our sick, and our disabled. On this 
labour of love and compassion, the whole 
edifice of human society is built. And yet 
this work — humble, and menial, carried 
out unseen in huts and hovels and homes 
throughout the world — has no status what- 
soever. Those who carry it out earn 
nothing, not even respect. This applies 
especially to mothers, even in this so-called 
democratic country where we are supposed 
to have equal rights. Some say that to have 
children is ideologically wrong. Others 
seem to think it is a self-indulgent thing 
that women do. Still others that we do it 
because we can't think of anything else. I 
say that in having and rearing children we 
make a substantial and valuable contri- 
bution to socity. The love and time we give 
our children will benefit you all. They will 
do the work when you are too old. They will 
feed you and pay your bills. They will 
defend your rights when you are helpless. 

feeble old fools. The quality of the care we 
give them determines the quality of all our 

Of course, the traditional Right accords 
some sort of status to motherhood, and this 
may appeal, or even seem reassuring, to 
some women. But it is granted only on 
condition that we are mothers to the 
exclusion of all else. We must not compete 
with the men, must not- participate in or 
gain understanding of what takes place 
outside our homes, and are consequently 
unable to educate our children in political 
history. This way the poor raise their sons 
and daughters to accept poverty and 
deprivation, to be exploited labourers and 
the mothers of exploited labourers, to take 
pride in their service, to be soldiers. 
Soldiers and whores. 

At Greenham Common USAF base, in a 
protest against cruise missiles, my six year 
old daughter and I stood amongst many 
other women, facing the soldiers and the 
fence. Directly in front of us stood a row 
of policemen. "Is that your child?" asked 
one of them. "Yes" I said, not without a 
touch of mother's pride. "It's not a very 
good example you're setting her, is it?" he 
said disapprovingly down his nose. I 
answered that I was giving her a political 
education, a lesson in active democracy. 
"Ha" he sneered, and moved off. Smug 
pig. If only his mother had been able to 
teach him a thing or two about power and 
democracy, he might not have been there, 
at that time, in that uniform. 

Discrimination and Isolation 

I hope I have convinced some of you that 
mothers are dedicated workers in a vital 
industry. (According to the International 
Labour Organization, Western housewives 
spend 3000 to 4000 hours each year on 
housework and family care. A 35-hour-a- 
week, paid, unionized job amounts to 1,750 
hours a year.) We have no trade union, no 
national pressure group, no representa- 
tives in Parliament to defend our interests. 
Decisions that affect our lives are taken for 
us, not by us, and without any form of 
consultation. This is blatant discrimina- 
tion. But it is not sexual. It doesn't happen 
because we are women. It happens 
because we are childcarers, and children 
are not catered for by public life, or allowed 
to be part of it. In fact, the attitude of our 
society is Victorian: children shouldn't be 
heard, and preferably not seen either. And 
we mothers are isolated, barred from 
uniting and organizing, not by any laws, 
but by the very nature of our work. 

When I first became a mother, I didn't 
realize this. I spent a lot of time with both 
my babies, very willingly. I felt it was 
important for us just to sit around together, 
play, fight, cuddle, and share food, just 



like monkeys do. It was a happy and per- 
sonally rewarding thing to do. (If anyone 
missed out, at that point, it was my 
husband, who had to work long hours to 
pay all the bills. As he doesn't produce 
any milk himself, we couldn't swap roles 
very well either.) But after about 9 months, 
a baby's need for the company of other 
children becomes quite dominant. (And a 
mother's need for the company of other 
adults too!) To my shock horror surprise, 
there was nowhere for either or both of us 
to go. There are virtually no provisions for 
under-threes. Every activity has to take 
place within the confines of somebody's 
flat. Whatever facilities you can provide at 
home are quickly exhausted by an active 
toddler. Children who have no neutral 
terrain on which to meet become competi- 
tive and possessive. Each defends his/her 
sovereignity over THEIR house, THEIR 
toys, THEIR Mom. Sharing and co-opera- 
tion don't come naturally under these 

To get away from all this, we used to go 
out to the parks a lot. They are so full of 
dogshit that you can't let a toddler crawl 
through the grass! 

After lugging a baby in a buggy, a 
toddler, two bags and a box of shopping 
along a mile or two of busy pavement, 
you'd think a woman would be entitled to a 
drink, wouldn't you? Well, we have to 
drink our pint on the pavement outside, in 
the cold, noise and pollution. Some 
pub-owners even allow that. As soon as 
you stick your face in the door, they tell you 
to get out because you have a child in your 
arms that you can't leave unsupervised 
outside, not even for a minute. 

Politics of Participation 

But it's not just public houses (pubs) we 
are barred from — it's any public activity at 
all. Public meetings, for instance, don't 
usually provide creches or kids' corners. So 
they are difficult, if not impossible, to 

Demonstrations are a trial. At a big 
demo last year there were thousands of us, 
with our babies and small children. We had 
to stand in the cold and the drizzle in the 
wet muddy park for two hours while 
various leading trade unionists gave long, 
boring speeches. Even when we finally did 
move, all the trade union branches went 
first, so we had to wait some more. Now 
this might seem a tedious little complaint 
to the uninformed. But the fact is, that 
when a small child falls over in the mud 
(something they do often), it gets wet. And 
when the child is wet and stays out in the 
cold, it catches a cold, or worse. Also 
because the children were hidden by other 
people's legs as they ran around, we were 
all dashing about trying to keep them from 

getting lost. So even as the speakers were 
congratulating us on the "encouragingly 
large turnout" and thanking us for our 
support, they were making it very difficult 
for us to stay. 

Labour Party activists seem equally 
unaware of the problems mothers have in 
participating. This is only my personal 
experience, but I have no reason to believe 
it is uncommon: when I joined my local 
party branch, I became a roadsteward. 
Every month me and the kids toddled 
through the street, stuffing agendas for 
meetings through people's doors. Some- 
times people rang me up, saying: 'I 
couldn't go to the meeting, what hap- 
pened?' I never knew. I didn't go to a 
single one myself. My husband was out at 
work in the evenings, the kids were too 
young to be left alone, and single friends 
mostly feel they can't cope with two noisy, 
snotty-nosed, shitty-diapered, recalcitrant 
brats, feed them, and put them to bed. 
No-one in my branch ever bothered to find 
out why I never turned up, and after a year 
I stopped being a roadsteward. After that, 
the only time anyone from the party 
contacted me was to ask me to bake a cake 
for a fund-raising stall. Did they think that 
because I was a mother and a housewife, 
the only worthwhile contribution I could 
make to politics was a cake? And if this 
isn't prejudice, then what is? 

Childcare, Democracy, and Socialism 

Children are a natural part of our lives; 
in every aspect — personal, private, social, 
public, political. I would like to make an 
appeal to radicals, especially radical men: 
when you organize a meeting, make sure 
children can be welcome too. Do some 
babysitting. Provide some childcare. It 
may not seem as exciting as going to a 
demo, raising funds for strikers, or making 
speeches. But it is just as relevant. 
Mothers are about 12% of the population, 
and depend more than most on a decent 
level of social services. 

But if mothers find it difficult or 
impossible to go to meetings, how can we 
discuss what is to be done, how can we 
organize to protect our services, how can 
we take a significant political action? Mind 
our children. They belong to all of us. Help 
us defend ourselves and work for a society 
where there is a more equal division of 
labor and resources, a juster distribution of 

by Monica Slade 

'^^.r,/'*/jz. *«/ 







TeRBERT Kohl became famous in 1968 with the 
publication of 86 Children, the extraordinary ac- 

Lcount of a year he spent teaching sixth grade in a 
"failure factory" Harlem, NY school. In the book, Kohl 
describes how, confronted with the thirty-six frus- 
trated, embittered, often rebellious young people of the 
title, he set out to reinvent his role as a teacher by 
learning from his students themselves what they 
needed. He started from the assumption that they were 
intelligent human beings who should be treated with 
respect, rather than "bad apples" being confined to 
the classroom-jail until the law released them onto the 
streets at age sixteen. It has been said that revolu- 
tionary discoveries always appear obvious in hindsight, 
and Kohl's libertarian approach to dealing with "hope- 
less" kids has proved to be no exception to this 
rule — nor to the rule that such discoveries, in the 
absence of the right kind of social momentum, tend to 
become truisms to which many pay lip-service but 
which are seldom actually put into practice. Neverthe- 
less, among good teachers— and there are still 
some— Kohl's name and ideas retain a wide influence. 
Throughout the intervening years. Kohl has con- 
tinued to fight for open, child-centered education in the 
US, despite the authoritarian rollback of the 80's. He 
scoffs at the argument, repeated ad nauseum by the 
mainstream media since they discovered the "crisis" of 
American eduation, that "permissive" or open 


methods have failed. "The so-called open education 
movement never penetrated more than ten percent of 
American public schools," he says. "The failure of 
American education is the failure of authoritarianism, 
of rigid standards and stupid curriculum, not the failure 
of openness." 

As he reveals in the conversation which follows. Kohl 
is sometimes bitter about the reactionary triumph in 
public education circles over the "return" to "basics" 
and "discipline." But he has not lost hope. Besides 
writing close to twenty books (with more in the 
pipeline) and innumerable articles for Learning and 
other magazines, he has continued to teach children, to 
train teachers and to explore new approaches to 
loosening the grip of bureaucratic repression and 
teacher inertia on the public schools. 

It was in this context that we started to talk about 
computer and learning. Kohl began by remarking with 
some amusement that he was something of a Luddite in 
relation to computers. I asked him what he meant. 

What is a Luddite? 

Well, let's take it historically first, then metaphor- 
ically. It starts with a bit of myth. This man Ned Ludd 
was supposedly a worker in the first "rationalised" 
industry— textiles — during the industrial revolution in 
Britain in the early nineteenth century. One day he 
went crazy and broke up all the stocking frames, 
destroyed the machinery, because he felt it was 
destroying his soul. Mechanization, remember, was 


throwing traditional craftspeople and 
small farmers out of work in huge 
numbers and enslaving them instead- 
including children, by the way— to 
sixteen-hour days in the factories and old 
age at thirty-five. Literally. So the 
Luddites were a movement of industrial 
and farm workers that got named after 
Ned Ludd because they followed his 
example. They believed the industrial 
revolution was anti-human, that the new 
machinery only functioned for the profit 
of the few and the oppression of the 
many, and should be destroyed. They 
were trying to take a stand against the 
elimination of sensible decent human 
work by destroying the machinery whose 
use was eliminating that work. A lot of 
Luddites also believed — and I think in 
this case quite appropriately — that these 
machines destroyed the quality of hu- 
man work as well as the actual doing of 
it, so that drudgery and shoddy work- 
manship were inevitable consequences 
of industrialization. 

Well, the Luddites eventually got 
jailed and so on and the movement was 
broken. However— and this is the intel- 
lectual sense of Luddism which is much 
more where I'm coming from — there has 
been a tradition throughout the last 125 
years of people who have tried to take a 
sensible view of whether any given 
technological innovation is beneficial to 
human life, or whether it's detrimental. 
And if it's detrimental, if it's enslaving 
or otherwise dangerous, we shouldn't do 
it. A perfect example of this for me is 
nuclear weapons. They are no defense 
because if they are ever used in any 
quantity at all, the human race will be 
wiped out. All they are is a monstrous 
threat — to everyone. We simply do not 
need them. 

Industry and technology should exist 
to serve people — people do not exist to 
serve industry and technology. This is a 
central theme that has to be elaborated 
in curriculum, in teaching kids, and in 
our whole society. Our vision of the 
future, of what to do with the knowledge 
we have, has to do with how we design 
schools — with education. For instance, 
the name of the magazine Classroom 
Computer Learning sounds like it's the 
computers that are learning. There's a 
classroom, and there are computers, and 
there's learning, but where are the kids? 
And its the kids that are the future! 
When you're teaching toward the future 
you try to make life as rich as possible for 
the children in the present. Every time 
you make a decision about what you 
want to change in a curriculum or class- 
room, you ask: "Does it enrich the lives 
of the people that use it?" That's the 

same perspective we have to take in 
looking at the microcomputer. 

So why did you see yourself at one 
time as a Luddite in relation to 

Well, I started working with main- 
frame computers in 1956, visiting at an 
IBM Research Center. Then I worked 
quite a bit with terminals and main- 
frames at the Lawrence Hall of Science 
in Berkeley in the late 'sixties and early 
seventies. It was all centralized, con- 
trolled from somewhere else, to start 
with. The software was extremely rigid, 
it wasn't "soft" except by comparison 
with the machines themselves. Also, 
there was no screen, of course— only a 
printer and a keyboard. Because of the 
many users there was a long wait time in 
the queue, and a short use time. Of 
course, just being an educational gim- 
mick in the Hall of Science, we had very 
low priority. Department of Defense- 
type users could jump right up the queue 
over our heads. As a consequence of all 
this, interaction with the machine was 
low to nonexistent. The machine actually 
interfered with teaching. It was worse 
than a textbook because at least you 
could have the textbook right there as 
long as you wanted. Kids asked me: 
"Why should I learn this instead of 
reading a book?" 

What was your answer? 

Well, at a certain point I said: No 
reason, unless you want to go into 
computer science, as a career. For those 
kids I devised a course in computing that 
didn't use computers — I just developed a 
lot of games and simulations and 
exercises in logic, to teach the ideas of 

Did your attitude change? 

It began to change in 1980 when Ted 
Kahn enticed me to work at Atari 
Institute— that was the educational char- 
ity Atari set up when they were still 
making big profits. It's folded now. 
Anyway, I started playing with micro- 
computers. To me, as a teacher, and as 
someone who's never grown up, who 
designs games and toys for children 
because / want to play with them too — to 
me microcomputers were magical tools. 
They were the most wonderful game kit 
you can imagine. For writing they were a 
tremendously flexible way to work and 
refine and revise things. They conferred 
the ability to have not one solution to a 
problem, but a hundred, to create your 
own problems and challenge other 
people, to share information over com- 

puter networks. I also saw them as tools 
that people in poor communities could 
have access to, so that they could find 
ways to organize information for them- 
selves and counter the enormous data 
bases that corporations and govern- 
ments use to control them. That's when I 
moved from being a Luddite about 
computers to being something of an 

But some things have moved you 
back in a Luddite direction again? 

Definitely. You see, the present school 
system perpetuates what Jules Henry 
cals "educational stupidity" — stupidity 
in a technical and not a street sense. 
Uncritical thinking, the inability to ask 
questions, the authoritarian acceptance 
of things that if examined turn out to be 
shallow, hollow, and in many cases false. 
This institutionalization of stupidity in 
the schools has now begun to use the 
microcomputer as its instrument. In- 
stead of being used as paintbrushes, 
music synthesizers, tools of mathemati- 
cal invention and intellectual exploration 
they are being used for the reproduction 
of this morbid stupidity and dullness. 

Can you be specific? 

Sure. When I was on the Board at 
Atari Institute, my main job was to 
review hundreds of proposals a year 
from schools all over the country for 
classroom computer use. I also visited 
dozens of schools where computers were 
being used. The proponents we thought 
were worthy were given computers 
and/or cash with which to implement 
their proposals. Most of the proposals 
were unsolicited, and most of them — 
close to 90% of them, actually — just 
translated existing curriculum into elec- 
tronic form. That is, they fell into one of 
four categories: drill and practice; 
rewarding kids for doing boring work 
with video games; remedial programs to 
make up for bad live teaching; and 
"computer skills" programs that were 
divided into "vocational" use for "dull" 
kids — word processing and data entry — 
and programming for "bright" kids. So 
not only are they perpetuating stupidity 



and dullness, they are perpetuating a 
false and unjustifiable hierarchy among 
the students. There is no known corre- 
lation between ability to pass English or 
Math tests, and ability to program 
computers — yet most schools are making 
success in these so-called "basic skills" 
the condition for computer access. It's 
like saying: "Until you get straight A's 
in Math, you can't take Music." Worse 
than that, in many schools, such as the 
one my children went to in Northern 
California, Typing is an entry require- 
ment for Elementary Computing: this 
despite the fact that typing ability has 
nothing to do with computing. The 
reason was that they needed work for the 
typing teacher to do. He knew nothing 

about computers, hated them, but he got 
to teach Computing and he was allowed 
to make Typing an entry requirement. 

To get back to how the machines are 
actually used — 

Computers are not being used as 
computers, in the same sense that books 
are not being used as real books, tools 
for free enquiry. Kids don't read books 
in the classroom, they read textbooks, 
which feed them bite-sized chunks of 
alleged "facts" and "skills" to be swal- 
lowed whole, regurgitated at the next 
test, and forgotten. That's what I call 
learning nothing in small increments, 
which is the basis of most American 
public education. Now the computers are 





Fun with a Purpose I 

Zoe Noe 

being used as textbooks and workbooks, 
with rigid software that tries to enforce 
the same ritualistic rote acceptance of 
thmgs that kids don't believe, don't 
comprehend, or don't care about. "Drill 
and practice" is a very simple way of 
saying that microcomputers in class- 
rooms are being used to shore up a 
system that doesn't work if you believe 
in democracy, that doesn't nurture the 
children who are its users. Everyone 
talks about micros being user-friendly, 
but right now they are not friends of the 
users. They treat the users as passive 

Then they pat them on the head 
electronically now and again... 

The kids tell me that M&M's are 
better than the computer throwing a 
couple of colors on the screen and 
playing "It's Howdy Doody Time" or 
"The Star Spangled Banner." It's a very 
inhuman notion of reward. Even for a 
pigeon — if you want a pigeon to play 
ping-pong, that's totally dysfunctional 
for the pigeon. So you have to reward 
the pigeon more and more to get it to do 
the same task. If classroom tasks remain 
completely boring, they have to be 
rewarded in a more and more interesting 
way. Let them play a few video games 
after all the drill and practice. Pure and 
simple bribery. But the bribes don't 
work because we live in an inflationary 
culture, and so you hvae to up the bribe 
while the intelligence required stays on 
the same low level, and there's no 

This is where Luddism in the original 
sense comes in. Kids who enjoy playing 
piano would never dream of breaking the 
strings. Kids who love to read consider 
defacing books a tragic act. Kids who 
love what they're doing honor the instru- 
ment and tools and materials they use. 
Conversely, kids who hate what they're 
doing, break 'em. If computers become 
instruments of torture in the schools — 
because boredom is torture to young 
minds, that's why so many of them hate 
school so much — we can expect to see 
them treated in a Luddite manner. 
Broken. Short-circuited. And computers 
are so fragile that that's incredibly easy 
to do. Like what happened to the 
"talking typewriters," the Edison Res- 
ponsive Environment teaching ma- 
chines, in the early 'seventies. I know of 
a school where the kids loved to screw up 
the teachers' programs — jam them, put 
in a false code, everything they could to 
make them inoperable. Which meant 
that computers were inoperable in the 
lives of those children. Now, there are 
some teachers who really care — some 



who not only care but know, and some 
who don't know, but care enough to 
explore along with their kids. In those 
places computers are considered pre- 
cious, like paints and brushes in a good 
art class. 

What do you think about the role of 
computers in the lives of primary- 
age children? 

I don't think any five-, six-, or seven- 
year-old should have anything to do with 
computers except in a totally informal 
way. They should be children, thev 



should live in a physical world— the 
world of objects and music and liveli- 
ness—as much as possible. Everybody 
talks about computers developing cogni- 
tive and small motor skills because kids 
can use the joystick and push the button 
real fast to shoot down Russian rockets. 
But in the last four years I've been to 
schools all over the country — San Anto- 
nio, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York 
City — and what I've seen is kids who are 
afraid to go into the playground and run! 
Kids who don't know how to build 
houses with blocks because all thev've 

from LOVE IS HELL by Matt Greening, P.O. Box 36E64, Los Angeles, CA 90036, $6.95 -t- $2 postage & handling. 

ever done is push buttons to build 
structures on the computer screen. Little 
children who are terribly afraid of other 
little children because they've spent all 
their lives in front of the computer and 
don't understand what it is to share a 
game or build communal lives with their 

I've also seen young children who 
believe they have to be adults. It's 
ridiculous! Five-year olds don't have to 
be adults, they don't have to prepare 
for jobs! We should honor their youth 
and give them a place to grow and be 
happy. Then they might be decent 

As it is, too-early use of computer and 
TV are combining to produce a desocial- 
ization of American children that's 
terrifying. If you take a child and 
parcellize her life so that half the time 
she's with the computer and the other 
half she's watching TV, what you get is a 
non-human being. 

The role of the teacher then would not 
be to wear a white coast and manage the 
system and make sure it doesn't get 
broken. It would be to help the kids 
articulate sensible problems that they 
were interested in and wanted to solve, 
and give them a path into the system 
from which they could get a wider and 
wider sense of which knowledge comes 
to bear on the problem that they them- 
selves have learned to articulate. 

For example? 

Take the question: "Why doesn't the 
earth come out of its orbit?" I look up 
under "Earth," then "orbit" then 
"Why?". I get a picture on the screen of 
the earth in orbit. It says: "How fast do 
you want it to go?" That's the beauty of 
the computer. I can control the shape of 
the earth's orbit, the speed, its mass and 
the sun's mass, the force of gravity — and 
by varying these things, I can find out 
the point at which the earth flips out of 

industry, or very well-to-do. It's not a 
large-scale phenomenon. 

The main problem at this level in the 
schools I'm familiar with is that the 
computer teachers always find one or 
two of these kids who are self-taught or 
whose parents are in the industry, and 
who know much more than the teachers 
do. These kids are hardly ever used as 
the real teachers: they're seen as 
threats. The halfway decent teacher will 
get them out of the classroom by finding 
them special training, the indecent 
teacher will get them out of the 
classroom as "discipline problems." 
Real knowledge of computers is not very 
often available in the school system 
because most teachers and administra- 
tors are scared to death of them, just like 
the average citizen is scared to death of 

So the kids know more than the 
teachers, if they know anything. And if 
they don't know anything, they don't 

... too-early use of computer and TV are combining to produce a 
desocialization of American children that's terrifying. . . 

What about middle-school age? 

Eight to twelve years old is when I 
would start introducing what I call 
"utilities." Things like word processors 
used the way Teachers and Writers 
Collaborative in New York used them — 
the kids each select their best piece of 
writing for the month, put it on a disc, 
then have all their classmates review it 
and file helpful suggestions about it. 
Then each of them revises their own 
piece using the suggestions, and every- 
body together selects type styles and 
develops graphics and they put it all 
together and print a magazine. Also 
mathematical investigation programs in 
which you can do all kinds of drawing to 
help you with problem-solving — "sup- 
posers" is what Judy Schwartz at MIT 
calls them, like algebraic supposers and 
geometric supposers. Introduce artistic 
drawing programs. Have kids create 
their own data bases. I would not have 
the programs structured so the kids start 
here and go there. I would have an 
enormous, amorphous world filled with 
learning that the kids can have access to 
and make their own maps of. That way 
they can begin to understand how to 
build structures of knowledge and use 
them for their own creative purposes, 
which is crucial in the development of 
the intellect. 

orbit in terms of each of these variables. 
There's no better exercise in algebra in 
the world. To take another question: 
"Where did the english language come 
from?" The computer asks me to be 
more specific. I give it a word and it tells 
me the origin. Then I start a data base 
listing the words by origin — Latin, 
Greek, Anglo-Saxon, Nordic, French. I 
graph numbers of words by origin, so 
that I begin to see relative weights. Then 
it says: "Do you want to go deeper?" 
Which means the Indo-European roots of 
the word. From there I could go back up, 
making trees. I begin to get a sense of 
the complexity of linguistic development 
— a linguistic geology. 

It would be simple to do that. But what 
they're doing mostly in this age group is 
drill and practice. It's like using a 
thousand-dollar computer as a ten-dollar 
calculator: it's a trivialization of the 

How about junior high and high 

There is no question that by that age, 
kids can be very, very sophisticated with 
computers. There are some secondary 
schools where kids use them the way you 
or I would use the phone. Unfortunately, 
these schools tend to be in places where 
a lot of the parents are in the computer 

want to go through another empty 
learning process. They are sick and tired 
of what schools have done to them. They 
don't want anything new because to 
them it's the same old package with new 
colors on it: "Test me, judge me, put me 
through drill and practice, but I'm not 
going to get anything exciting or useful 
for my life out of it." The most amazing 
phenomenon of American secondary 
education is its ability to make Mozart, 
mathematics, Norman Mailer, and the 
creation of cornmeal all the same. Make 
them into — into cornmeal mush! The 
most interesting things in the world 
become equally and unambiguously 
boring. And now they're doing the same 
thing with computers. The idea behind 
this whole style of schooling is that if we 
give the kids any freedom, they'll waste 
their time and they won't do what 
they're supposed todo. So we have to 
bludgeon them into learning. There's a 
complete lack of belief in the imagina- 
tion, a complete lack of trust in young 
people. They're treated as fugitives from 
the justice of learning. 

Are things any better at college 

That's where some of the most 
interesting and creative stuff is being 
done. In the places I've been to, like 



Brown and Carnegie-Mellon, and U of M 
at Ann Arbor, the computers being used 
by students as another tool for research 
or personal exploration of all kinds of 
data bases of other people's work. It's 
giving them the ability to record and 
process documents, to do sketching and 
drawing and dimensioning. In fact, the 
way computers are used in college is the 
way they should be used in sixth grade. 
Why should college students have the 
privilege of doing things well and freely 
while sixth-graders are enslaved to drill 
and practice? 

What do you think is the relationship 
between computer skills and jobs? 

Very few people are needed to do the 
creative work in the computer world, in 
either hardware or software — designing 
the systems, the chips, and so on. For 
the rest, they need a few programmers, 
a few maintenance people — and com- 
puter maintenance now just means 
pulling a chip out and putting another in, 
it's far less skilled than installing for the 
phone company — and some janitors to 
keep everything shiny and dust-free. We 
don't even need people to make the 
chips here because we've got teenage 
girls doing it for pennies a day in South 
Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, El 
Salvador. What else? Secretaries. Data 
entry clerks. Everything I've read es- 
sentially says that even if on occasion it 
leads to the illusion of creating jobs, the 
computer industry is actually creating an 
unbelievable lack of need for people. The 
whole drive is toward what they call 
"expert systems," [See "Mind Games 
in PW #13] and the more expert systems 
you have, the fewer live experts you 
need, let alone the less skilled people. 
I've already seen kids, good program- 
mers who have just graduated high 
school, and who find that there are 
twenty people ahead of them for every 
job available. The Computer Engineer- 
ing departments are telling them: 
"Don't bother." 

So it's an absolute lie to say to kids: 
"You have to learn computers so you can 
get a job." I would tell them they're 
probably better off learning music or the 
arts, or how to build a house, or drive a 
bus, because these are services that 
people will always need — unless of 
course there's so much unemployment 
that people can't afford to pay for them! 
The problem of employment and com- 
puters is the problem of employment, 
period. Learning computing will not 
solve this problem either for the indivi- 
dual or for society. 

But aren't computers becoming such 
a pervasive fact of modern life that 
everybody ought to be computer 

I don't think everybody needs to 
become computer literate anymore than 
evrybody needs to be airline piloting 
literate, or bricklaying literate, or astro- 
physics literate. I think everybody 
should be politics and Constitution and 
union and human rights literate, because 
you need to understand the things that 
affect your life. You can be computer 
literate in terms of knowing how to 
program in Basic— or in machine lan- 
guage, for that matter — and still not 
know a thing about how computers are 
used to regulate you, or their effects on 
society. For most people, learning Basic 
is like learning to divide by fractions, 
which I haven't done since I left sixth 
grade, and I have a degree in Mathe- 
matical Logic! What everyone does need 
to be is computer sociology and politics 
literate. That stuff should be taught in 
Twentieth-Century History, in your Se- 
nior year— "Problems of American Dem- 
ocracy," I call it. 

So where is this computer education 
boom coming from? 

Well, partly from the creation of a new 
teaching profession and a new bureau- 
cracy which controls the new credentials 
and degrees for those teachers — "Mas- 
ter Teacher in Computing," "Master of 
Computer Education," "Master of Com- 
puting Arts" and all the restof that crap. 
Then the teachers go back into the 
schools to take over the computers under 
the pretense that the students will get 
jobs, when you know most of them 

I think it's outrageous to require 
computer literacy so that people who 
don't need or want it won't graduate 
from high school and will be penalized in 
their lives for not caring about it. It's the 
flip side of denying computer access to 
kids who do want it because their grades 
are too low in English or Typing. A 
perfect example is my eldest daughter, 
who fortunately has already graduated. 
She's a painter and she wants nothing to 
do with computers. But she's not 
crippled in any way by that, and if she 
wants that knowledge, she can discover 
it. Everyone says now that if you aren't 
taught something like computers or 
mathematics when you're real young, 
you'll never learn it. That's like saying 
that if you don't learn how to drive a car 
when you're six, you'll never learn when 
you're sixteen. The fact is, you can learn 
everything you need to know about 
handling a computer in three weeks 

when you're thirty, two weeks when 
you're fifteen, and maybe three days 
when you're eleven or twelve. It isonly in 
the interests of the computer industry 
and the computer education establish- 
ment to force everybody to do compu- 
ting. It is not in the interests of the 

But you talked earlier in pretty 
glowing terms about what could be 
done with computers in schools. 

Sure. That's not the same as forcing 
everyone to learn computer science, 

Then what skills can best be learned 
through computer use? What else 
are they really good for in schools? 

Well, to summarize — simulating a 
complex process or a situation you 
couldn't possibly live through. Experi- 
menting with multiple solutions and 
getting feedback on your mistakes that is 
not just one-dimensional straight an- 
swers but hints and clues that lead in a 
hundred directions. Producing visual 
representations of your work you can 
play with. Creating your own relation- 
ships between data. Generating whole 
class newspapers and magazines, com- 
plete with graphics. Setting up electronic 
mailboxes and using networks to get in 
touch with other kids in other parts of the 
country and the world. Those are all 
capabilities eminently worth having. 
And kids can begin playing with them 
around eight to ten years old. The little 
ones should simply do it in their lives, in 
their fantasies. You need an active mind 
first, then the interactive machine can 
enrich the active mind. That's the magic. 




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M~H H ■■■■■■ 

J^ |/c»-kEE^ 

A 'Play System' for Modular Thinking 

Translator's Introduction 

1 HE Germans strike again? Maybe it's the legacy 
of too much Critical Theory, too much Marx, too 
much Hegel, too much Kant (or cant?]. Maybe 
it's the lousy weather. 

Whatever: this edited-down translation of a piece by 
Imma Harms, which originally appeared in the West 
German ecological magazine Wechsel-Wirkung [Gnei- 
senaustr. 2, D-1000, Berlin], tells us some truths about 
how "innocent" toys can be used as seductive tools of 
social control and forced socialization. 

But something about the piece did not sit right; in 
fact, two things. One: children have two genders. Do 
girls play with LEGO and such things differently than 
boys? When a girl puts down a doll and picks up a 
LEGO piece on her way to constructing some sort of 
flying/digging/moving/living/talking thing — does this 
mean something different than when a boy does it? 
Mebbe so. (What was that computer programmers' 
sister up to, anyhow?) The old norms say, girls don't 
build; they take care of the builder when he falls down. 
LEGO can be an instrument of revolt against an old 

Two: The author just begins to get at this at the end, 
but it needs more emphasis: playing with toys (or just 
living) in a world made up of abstracted roles and 
empty rules does not automatically produce empty and 
abstracted people. At least there is no guarantee that 
that will happen. Kids can play with LEGO, and then 

they go out and squat houses, close down nuclear 
power plants, give stony greetings to the likes of 
George Bush, etc. 

Ohne Zukunft for ever— The Datadybbuk 

The West German government is worried about its 
citizens' stubbornly bad attitude towards hi-tech. It still 
looks like lots of people don't want to believe that their 
future is tied to data processing and microelectronics, 
"in prosperity and hard times," as the Club of Rome 
put it. So the conservative Christian Democratic regime 
has begun to plan a cultural offensive aimed at 
"motivating people" to deal with the new information 
and communication technologies, beginning with the 
elementary school system. 

This doesn't mean that every child should learn 
BASIC as their first foreign language. The state is 
much more concerned with the basics as a whole, of 
preparing the next generation for the "insertion of 
information technology systems into different areas of 
life and work." According to the government, success 
in the future requires a "systematic application" of the 
"basic principles" of the new information order— "dig- 
ital information ordering, the translation of real 
activities into a machine-readable program"— at the 
elementary school level. 

Finding Beauty in the Abstract 

What are these basic principles, then? 

Seymour Papert, in considering the question in his 



book, Children, Computers and the New 
Learning, gives us some illuminating 
glimpses of what's in store. Papert takes 
the work of the Swiss child development 
psychologist, Jean Piaget, and turns it on 
its head. Piaget distinguishes between a 
child's acquisition of "concrete" and 
"formal" thinking. According to Piaget's 
logic, a child is taught only "concrete 
thinking" in the early years, thinking that 
is visual, qualitative and directly linked to 
the sensuous world. Only later, when a 
child begins school, does Piaget suggest 
the introduction of more abstract or 
"formal thinking," thinking that is analy- 
tic, quantitative, mediated. 

With the arrival of the computer on the 
scene, rejoices Papert, it is now possible to 
organize "formal thinking" so that child- 
ren who are still at the age during which 
they learn intuitively, spontaneously and 
through direct perception, swallow it down 
as "concrete thinking." When other 
children learn "that is a tree, this is a 
green, that is hot," Papert's children 
would learn, "Right 90-SQ/Right 30/TRL/ 
at completion come to a house." This is a 
style of thinking in which every perception 
is fragmented into programmable units. It 
is to take place at the point of a child's 
development, according to Papert's re- 
working of Piaget, where "an intuitive 
science of quantity and system would be 
erected." Children, writes Papert, would 
learn "to find beauty in the abstract." 

It's no surprise that many [German] 
parents, including those in the "progres- 
sive left," worry about the connection 
between computers and their kids. "What 
kind of relationship is this," writes one 
parent, where opposite the child is a thing 
"without voice, without face, without age, 
without sex, without a fate, without smell, 
without body, an ever-emotionless slave of 
reason. . . Does one learn rational self- 
discipline or in the long run does one learn 
self-destruction, the expulsion of all per- 
sonal feelings in every realm of production 
and social life?" 

But why are these same parents so naive 
when it comes to other, much older 
methods for producing Papert's children? 
Every kid's room is filled with them. The 
most modern toys — one can only call them 
"playing systems" — carry the imprint of 
the computer culture. 

The Unbounded World of a "Play 

The classic and most widely distributed 
is LEGO. It does exactly what Papert 
wants: a world — the world — gets built out 
of standardized units. The concrete is syn- 
thesized out of the formal. And if at times it 
only has a vague connection to real life. 

nonetheless the child learn that the more 
abstract the building block, the more 
varied things can be built. 

Not coincidentally, LEGO advertising 
makes remarkably similar points to Pa- 
pert's call for kiddie computers. Individual 
LEGO pieces "represent nothing in them- 
selves, but assembled they can represent 
anything under the sun — and more! The 
boundary is set by the limitless imagina- 
tion of the child." So says LEGO. Papert 
writes that "there are an infinite number of 
possible" shapes that a child could 
program onto a computer screen, but each 
time they would learn "to exercise control 
of this incredibly rich 'microworld.' " 

Fifty million children in 125 countries 
play with the colored knobby blocks, but 
this unusually successful toy didn't dev- 
elop out of normal kid's building blocks. 
The Danish firm that makes LEGO toys 
used to build only wooden toys, mostly 
trucks, until the second World War. The 
plastic "bricks" were the trucks' cargo. 
After the war, these injection-molded 
blocks were expanded into a "play 
system" accompanied by a lavish adver- 
tising budget and the full repertoire of 
modern mass marketing techniques. 
Throughout Europe children fell in love 
with "LEGO — a system for playing," as it 
was described. 

The clean, interlocking blocks, the 
smooth walls, the totally rational toy 

seemed to satisfy something in the children 
(or was it their parents?) that made LEGO 
more than a fad. The toy's message sank 
in: if one piece was missing, it was 
exasperating. Either the construction was 
perfect, or it was botched. A computer 
programmer explained to me that, as a 
child, he always used to get angry when his 
sister used the different colored LEGO 
pieces without any logic to it, mixing up the 
colors wildly. He always put them "in 
order" afterward. 

The Cultural Heritage 

Writes one child psychologist: "A toy is 
an important tool for education and 
training, in which the child gets the feel of 
the cultural heritage of his or her time." 

What does a child learn with LEGO, and 
what are they supposed to learn? 













It's not just that it's easier to put the 
blocks together with LEGO than with other 
similar toys. It's also that there is no choice 
but to put the blocks together: one can do 
no more than build in this "orderly" sense. 
The knobs on the top of one fit into the base 
of the next; smooth walls, sharp diagonals, 
square forms get built. With LEGO, to 
build means to build according to exact 
rules. It doesn't feel like a constraint, 
because the rules are built into the blocks 
themselves; the rules were fixed once and 
for all in the production process. What is 
experienced "at play" is what's left within 
these boundaries. The modeling of the real 
world during playtime is thus made into an 
improved multiple choice test. 

The Modular Technique 

LEGO also embodies a principle of 
construction based on the use of modular 
building elements. With standardized 
building pieces, it doesn't matter if what is 
being built is a garage, a helicopter, a cow. 
Piece after piece is stuck together, every- 
thing gets bricked up. This technique, 
based on the module, the dominant charac- 
teristic in all parts of society. It is the 
"cultural heritage" within which children 
play, when they play with LEGO. 

We find this technique in housing con- 
struction based on prefabricated materials, 
in all modern equipment manufacture, in 
containerized freight, and in an especially 
pure form in software techniques and 
complex programming systems. Here, the 
module is a necessity; nothing happens 
without it. The parallel is astonishing. 

The great advantage of modular tech- 
nology is that "it constructs out of 
components what they all have in common 
— they can be combined, taken apart, and 
put back together in a new form." That's 
how LEGO is advertised. 

"Through the step-by-step assembly of 
components and the use of existing ones, 
new levels of abstraction emerge. The raw 
material for the creation of the elementary 
components," (LEGO advertisers would 
complete this sentence) "is developed out 
of synthetic plastics." However, this is not 
LEGO advertising copy, but from an essay 
discussing a complex programming lan- 
guage called ELAN. The sentence contin- 
ues, "The raw material for the creation of 
the elementary components are objects and 
structures of program languages now in 

Modular technology precedes system 
programming. One lecture about data 
structures and programming notes that it is 
best to "employ the established principle 
that from a few simple components, based 
on a few, well-thought out assembly 
options, complex structures can be erect- 

ed." LEGO'S top managers could have said 
the same thing. 

Or this: "Modern modular systems are 
based upon a system of building blocks. 
The user can locate the desired parts, and, 
according to his production requirements, 
put them together into a total system." 
This is not about toys, but the use of 
"modular programs for industrial produc- 
tion systems." 

The basic parallel is in the underlying 
logic, namely, that with an appropriate 
basic component — here a programming 
language, there a knobbed building block 
— every problem can be solved, every 
figure constructed. In computer program- 
ming, reality is seen through the frame of 
numerical logic and the languages built on 
it; in playing with LEGO, reality is seen 
through the frame of the "language" and 
logic of the standard LEGO block. 

The future needs these kinds of people! 
A society of programmers. That is what 
children who play with LEGO learn. They 
not only build with modules, they become 
modules — that interlock, like the little 
wheels inside an old mechanical calculator. 


Breaking Through the Module: 
Bringing the Pieces Together 

"A toy," writes Bernhard Kroner, is a 
"symbol of the required ways of behavior. 
In thise sense, a toy is a means of social 
control." The question is, what would 
protection against the mis-use of formal 
logic look like? The protection lies partly in 
the nature of the real world. Ours is a world 
of quality, of the unique, of the imprecise 
and the contradictory. The real world is a 
world of continuity, and of the inconceiv- 



Ordering this chaos through a logic of quantity and 
system is only one possibility; and the result is an 
artificial world. 

tiii*» t »iitiiti i iita»ttttf»»0**tit»*»at «a«*ms!tiis«»t!t 

t*z s ii * m i> tii«*i iiii 

Ordering this chaos through a logic of 
quantity and system is only one possibility; 
and the result is an artificial world. 

A child finds all these worlds inside 
worlds mixed together. She will find 
elements of chaos, and elements for its 
mastery, whole layers of different cultures 
and of technologies. Everything leaves its 
traces, its "cultural heritage" of the time. 
A child can choose and bring together what 
is important to her, what seems to belong 

together. A child can break down old 
connections, and make new ones. This is 
her own source of autonomy. 

Somewhere in all this, LEGO finds its 
place. For certain, there isone thing that we 
can do better with LEGO than just about any 
other toy: build walls. 

— by Imma Harms 
translated by The Datadybbuk 





-NOONI 3H1 ^ AlinNllNOO dOD 



/ did not expect to see the sun rise today 
I expected to see a thousand blue owls 
Flying through the rain 
Coming to blanket me with gloom and silence 
And veils of an aged dream 

Instead I see gold light on the bricks 

The song of the sparrow dripping from new leaves 

The streets vivid with young shadows 

Thin columns of mist still linger 
From the haunted landscapes of sleep 
Slowly, the morning rituals unfold themselves 
From my hands: uncertain of my faith 
In secular dimensions, I try to anchor 
Myself with formula actions 
Hoping to discover the right incantation 
The proper gesture, the spell not found 
In any grimoire 

In the dawn I see other colors 

Violet and pink, pearl silk and mystic gold 

Cool music, her spectral flesh 

Cathedrals of April 

Cities rising from the hallowed night 

The rain back to legend 

Blue owls waiting 

In a forest beyond prayer 

—by G. Sutton Breiding 
in A Clerk's Journal 


Memories of summer Sunday 

helicopters rising from the magic garden 

and Emma 

in lingering skirt 

posing for a photograph 

by men of iron 


so much more than she expected 

— byC.K. DeRugeris 

AN ADULT HAMBURGER (understands romance) 

An adult hamburger 
built to fit an adult mouth 
times millions, 

with some greaseless home fries 
for those seamless new thighs. 

You utter your one word of Italian 
at the beverage counter 

and invent your own salad 
named after yourself. 

An adult hamburger 
for a mouth that's been around 
times millions of blocks, 

with your choice of cheese toupees 
on an art deco tray. 

An assertive, ambitious, achiever 
of a burger, a hamburger 
out to have a good time. 

—by Kurt Lipschutz 




wasn 7 like any 
fucking war flick 
parade no confetti 
or trumpets tfie 
cabs on strike 
after JFK upstate 
on West Allen 
old brownstones 
torn open for 
concrete tie said 
a girl witfi long 
ironed tiair spit 
seeing his uniform 
medals in ttie 
bottom of the 
suitcase he said 
I got near my 
brother's called 
said this is 
Tom, he said Tom 
who? Jesus fucking, 
your brother. I got 
a room mate now 
Ray says but I 
guess its ok 
for you to 
stop by 

—by Lyn Lifshin 


The mad queen broke the mirror with a curse, 
set her heart against a silent mountain, 
and pelted her ghosts with our produce. 

In the morning she was locked 

in the wine cellar, 

and the stern Administress of the Interior 

promised a reign of order and terror. 

We are saved. We are lost. 

Already the factions foment. 

Long Live the Queen! the old men remember 

fondly the incitation of wilderness eyes. 

But the crowds yell: Infrastructure Now! 

to the diggers of canals, pavers-over, 

and mechanical engineers. 

In the underground airport, business 
travelers and refugees mingle and lose 
their luggage like always. 

The men are frightened. The women 
are like the men. 
Now is the time to buy. 

—by Barbara Schaffer 


no room in this mirror for both of us 

your armored thoughts have got to go 

your forearms scarred with tattooed hearts 

your epaulets with bars 

you can stay hard for a longer time 

(/ can stay sad forever) 

& glide through strangers' paradise 

with the same familiar hells 

' 'here. . . this is where the bullet pierced, ' ' 

you said, "did you know I killed a man?" 

you flew in the air force 

I marched on dry land 

you got a medal (I got a suntan) 

& parched ribs on napalmed sand 

"waves, " you wept 

' 'cold as glass hands 

pulled this country down" 

no room in this mirror for both of us 

no room to swim or drown 

these are the fingers that trigger your passion 

& set your flesh on fire 

& these are the fingers that push the buttons 

that send us all to hell 

I can see love go up in smoke 
you see clear blue sky 
shrapnel tides on moonlit nights 
bombard our asphalt pride 
with one more bone to fill the hole 
& one more back to knife 

—by William K. Maximin 

NOW WE ARE SIX (or rEAl liFE pOeM # .01 ) 

andrea asked alice 

"what is the Fourth of July?" 

alice said "Fireworks day" 

"but do you know what it means?" 

asked andrea 

' 'No ' ', said alice 

"it's the birth of our nation" 

' 'How old is it then ? ' ' asked alice. 

' '208 years old ' ' 

' 'It should be dead by now ' ', 

said alice. 

—by Julia Barclay 



HE acrid aroma of warm ketchup 
and vinegar revives me as I step into 
the cool rose -hued early morning 
air. I crawl into my tin-plated subcompact 
and rev the engine into a dull roar. I'm 
gliding onto the Nimitz Freeway, past the 
ketchup factories and canneries, past the 
"outdated" industrial plants, the factories 
and warehouses. Past the abandoned bus 
factory, where rusted engines and bus 
chassis' lay strewn over the yard. Past the 
truck plant employee parking lot, once a 
dense concentration of pickups and 
chevy's, now a desolate landscape of 
tumbleweeds and beercans. I'm cruising 
over the San Mateo bridge and veering 
south, into the future. The signs say Palo 
Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale but I'm 
reading Silicon Valley on each one. No 
more smokestacks, no more peaked tin 
roofs. Instead we have "university style 
buildings." Flat roofs. Rolling lawns. I pull 
into the parking lot of Hewlett-Packard's 
Santa Clara Division, slowing down to flash 
my badge to the guard on duty but not 
really bothering to stop. Why waste 
precious time? We receive a notice on this 
once a month. "All employees must come 
to a full stop and show the guard their 
badge." For our own safety and security of 

I walk across the vast parking lot in the 
slanting morning sun clutching my paper 
bag of lunch. I remember my first days at. 
HP being ridiculed for bringing my lunch in 
a tin bucket, like everyone did at the 
factory. HA HA, where do you come from? 
It reminded people of Fred Flintstone and 
Barney Rubble going to work at the stone 
quarry. Here we bring lunch in paper bags. 
That's progress. I show my badge to the 
guard at the desk and walk into the stale 
conditioned air of building 2A. My building 
is only one of five at this division employing 




almost 2000 people. The building is a sea of 
modular partitions and workbenches. ! 
mumble my hello's to the technicians at 
their benches hunched over their data 
books, catching up on a little sleep. I wave 
hello in the direction of the women 
assemblers, already perched over their 
chassis's, trying to remember what goes 
where. I make my way to my bench, 
mechanical assembler position, a fifteen 
foot long bench with trays and trays of nuts, 
bolts, screws, washers, and hardware 
stretched out before me. A pile of tools at 
my elbows. I quickly take off my jacket and 
fumble my tools around, coughing and 
clearing my throat. To announce my 
presence. There are no time clocks to punch 
here so you are clocked in by the several 
busybodies who make it their business to 
see when you come in. The eyes and ears of 
the supervisors. If your jacket is still on, it 
means that you just walked in the door. I 
make a short trip to the main coffee 
dispenser in the main building. Cot to start 
waking up. I stare at the skeleton of an 
instrument before me on my workbench. 
Where did I leave off? It starts coming back 
to me and I slowly start piecing the skeleton 
together, destined to become yet another 
Hewlett-Packard Fourier Analyzer. Noth- 
ing to look forward to until 9 o'clock break. 
The morning is a blur of humming floure- 
scent lights and luke-warm coffee. I am lost 
in my work until, finally, the break trays are 
spotted rolling down the aisles. It's 
Tuesday, cookie day. I see the forewarned 
are already heading the cart off at the pass, 
grabbing the best cookies. The cart arrives 
and two pots of coffee and the tray of 
cookies are placed on our rack before 
rolling off to distribute to other break areas. 
A line is quickly formed and we grab our 
rations and join our respective social circles 
to talk and gossip. I edge into an assembler 
station and talk with some friends. 

"Where's Ellen today?", I ask the 


Marie perks up, "You didn't see her get 
the escort yesterday? She got canned 
yesterday about 2:30." 

"What!!," I shout in disbehef I lower 
my voice instantly and everyone looks ner- 
vously around. "Why?" 

"That bitch of a lead didn't like her. 
Prob'ly 'cause she's black. I talked to her 
last night. She's glad to be out of here, she 
was sick of this place." 

"She really needed this job though," 
says Becky. "It's hard to find work these 

Everyone nods. 

"She'll find something, " says Marie. 

The conspiracy of the five of us talk 
quietly, making sure one of the supervi- 
sors, or their eyes or ears aren't listening 
in We all keep smiles on our faces. HP, 
you see, doesn't have layoffs. Never. 
There'll be no unemployment insurance 
for them to pay Coincidentally, when the 
economy goes sour, there seems to be a 
rash of firings. In the afternoon, there'll be 
a tap on the back, a quick trip to personnel, 
and out the door without one chance to say 
"goodbye, I'm fired." Not one chance to 
tell your coworkers what's happening or 
exchange phone numbers. Spiriting people 
out the door like that makes most people 
feel they're to blame themselves. Most are 
too embarassed to even come back for their 

"1 was just getting to know Ellen, too 
bad," I mutter to myself. 

And then, much too soon, break's over. 
We all saunter back to our work stations. 

I'm up to my elbows in hardware. I'm 
assembling frames for instruments. As- 
sembling the chassis, installing the trans- 
former, the switch assembly, the fuse- 
holders, the lights and LED's, the card- 
holders. I'm installing the mini box fan, to 
keep the instrument cool and calm. Me and 
these fans have a history. I got tired of 
watching the heavy solder smoke curl up 
the women's nostrils over in chassis wiring 

"How can you stand breathing that stuff 
all day long?", I would ask. 

"HMM, oh, you get used to it," Mae 
said. She ought to know, she's been 
working for HP for thirty years now. One of 
the few who still remember Bill and Dave 
handing out the Christmas checks. 

"It's really bad to breathe that stuff you 

"Oh, everything is bad for you these 
days " 

Mae is the tough, loyal old-timer type. 
The other women on the line detested 
breathing fumes all day long however. So, I 
started requisitioning extra box fans from 
the stock room, since my job enabled me to 
procure spare parts for repair work. ! 
would wire the little fans and put them on 

the workbenches and they would at least 
blow the solder smoke away from the nos- 
trils. Soon, everyone wanted a little fan of 
their own. I was having a hard time filling 
orders. All was well for several months 
when, boom, our breath of fresh air died. 
The management caught on to our poor 
judgement and misuse of company assets. 
Fans were for cool and breezy instruments, 
not for assemblers faces. The fans were 
rounded up and herded back into the 
stockroom. No one, it seemed, really knew 
where those little fans came from all wired 
up like that though. Mysterious. 

At one of our little department 
meetings, I requested ventilation 
for all the employees benches. /■ 
Sherry, our new supervisor, AK 

was horrified. Supes were 
rated on keeping 

expenditures , ^r^ 

down. She V-'a^ 

smiled benevolently, ^-^ 
after regaining her 

composure, and chided us little children for 
asking for exorbitant luxuries like venti- 
lation. Sherry was a new hire fresh from 
Stanford who had never worked a day in 
her life before now, yet here she was 
telling the electronic facts of life to people 
who have been working in the industry for 
many years. No one, however, backed me 
up on my proposal after she ridiculed it like 

Around a month later, Mae came back 
from a three week vacation, all tan and 
relaxed. Her second day back on the job 
she came in furious. 

"Do you know. Sherry, that I've had 
blisters in my nostrils for as long as I can 
remember. They actually went away while 
I was on my vacation. I could actually 
breathe properly. Do you know that one 
day back on the job and they're back again! 
It's that damn solder smoke, I'm sure of it. 
We must have some vents in here!" 

Sherry's face was a flustered pink while 
Mae continued her story to all the women 
in the area as they sat around the big table 
wiring chassis. Big festering sores in her 
nose for twenty-some odd years and never 
placed the cause. 

On break time I wrote up a petition 
demanding ventilation and everyone quick- 
ly signed. I xeroxed it and left it on 
Sherry's desk. I told her I'm giving a copy 
to the area manager. She was in a panic. 
Letting rebellion spread is an unpardon- 
able offense for a supervisor. Several days 
later, installation people were installing a 
central vent with individual air scoops for 
the work stations. Sherry's hatred of me 
stems from this day. 

I'm installing a cable harness and sub- 
assembly which comes from yet another 


Now it's 
ready for 
the chassis wiring, 
put it on a shelf for the 
wiring people to take. It will 
take them about eight hours to 
wire just one of them. I go back to another 
chassis and repeat the same steps. I work 
automatically, grabbing the right crinkle 
washer, the right locknuts, screws, tinner- 
mans. Working miniature little nuts into 
the tiny space between the transformer and 
the frame. What a pain. My hands fly from 
tweezers to screwdrivers, to needle nose 
pliers to wirecutters, solder irons, solder 
suckers, crescent wrenches, alien wrench- 
es, bus wire, the tools of the trade. I'm like 
an automaton. I know this particular instru- 
ment well so I can daydream and still work. 
I listen to the chatter of the technicians 
behind me. I catch snatches of their con- 
versation: the 49ers, some asshole of a 
referee, Willy Nelson's concert, some 
blonde in a ferrari... I see Louie hunched 
over his work station. He's strapping a just 
tested laser on the vibration board. Straps 
it down with a big black rubber strap. 



Turns on the motor and it shakes, rattles 
and rolls with the sound of an outboard 
motor. They build these lasers tough. 
Louie shuts the motor off and prepares 
another one. Last week Louie was walking 
the line between getting fired or electro- 
cuted. The company had been talking for 
months of the dangers of static electrical 
damage to delicate CMOS parts. J ust think 
of it, miniature lightning bolts at our 
fingertips, this static electricity. They 
corralled us all into the conference room for 
a thirty minute film on the danger. We saw 
crashing F-111's all for the sake of a burnt 
out little CMOS chip. Sounded like a good 
idea to me. A little later we were all handed 
a big black mat that was electrically 
grounded to our workstations to protect 
these chips. No more coffee cups at our 
area as styrofoam is a harborer of these 
dangerous electrical charges. Certain fab- 
rics were not allowed to be worn to work. 
Then they handed us all little bracelets 
with straps to strap ourselves to the tables. 
To ground ourselves to not damage the 
chips. Amazingly enough most people did 
not want to be leashed like dogs to their 
work stations. To the assemblers it was an 

insulting thought, but to the technicians It 
was like telling them to stand in a puddle of 
water and stick their finger in an electrical 

Louie expressed his fears to me. "I 
spend my whole technical career trying to 
remember the old axiom of never ground- 
ing yourself and they ask me to do it volun- 
tarily. I work with 10,000 volts on the 
power supply of this laser. One slip and I'm 
cooked meat with this grounding strap." 

Louie is a quiet guy. He agonized 
privately over this dilemma for several 
days, disturbed that all his coworkers saw 
no problem with the arrangement. One 
afternoon he exploded into a tirade against 
the grounding strap, pointing out the 
dangers to his coworkers. Seems no one 
had really thought about it. They all 
trusted the company's engineers to think it 
through and make a good decision. They all 
saw Louie's side and agreed unanimously 
to refuse to use the strap. They scheduled a 
meeting the next day with the big boss who 
also agreed it was a stupid idea. Seems the 
office people had been sold on all this stuff 
by the marketing group. Sounded reason- 
able to them as they never work on elec- 
tronics. That was the end of the "Leash 
Law " Louie retreated back into his shy 
little corner again. 

I see Mike and Pam winding their way 
through the burn-in area, coming to get me 
for lunch. We join the stream of the hungry 
in the aisle and walk up the stairs and 
through a long sunlit corridor to the 
cafeteria. We take our trays outside, for 
some fresh air. Some people are playing 
volleyball at the net stretched across the 
courtyard area outside the cafeteria. The 
famed silicon valley recreation area. This 
isn't a factory, it's a country club. Actually, 
you'd be a fool to use your thirty minute 
lunchbreak to bat a ball around. You eat, 
talk a little and it's back to work. The 
people who play volleyball are either on a 
diet or have no lunch money. I suppose the 
engineers could play volleyball in between 
designing new technology but I've never 
seen them. They go to their private health 
clubs that are scattered throughout silicon 

We gossip and bullshit about who's been 
fired, how we managed to goof off today 
and who's been getting it on with who. The 
latter is a very popular item for discussion 
as the plant is half male and half female. 
Fertile grounds for a thriving Peyton Place. 
We plan our upcoming weekend. Before 
we know it it's time to troop back down to 
our workstations. It was nice seeing the 
sun as there's no windows in the building 
downstairs. No distractions. Croups of us 
are drifting back to work, a parade of 
happyfaced clones. We all wear painted 
smiles. All one big family. Management 

wears shirts with the sleeves rolled up and 
no ties. That's their uniform. Most have no 
doors on their offices. They have the "open 
door policy" here. We refer to that policy 
when they fire someone "They open the 
door and throw them out." When I was 
first hired, at a different HP facility, my 
boss told me, "You don't come here to 
make money. You come here to make a 
contribution. We don't discuss wages here 
with each other, that's strictly personal." I 
remember my final interview with this guy, 
my original boss. With his pen he wrote 
these letters in capitals for me. M-E-R-l-T 


"This is the key to your success here," he 
told me. "Merit — not seniority like union 
jobs or cost of living or stuff like that. 
That's the old days." I noticed he had a 
pack of Merit cigarettes sticking out of his 
breast pocket. What a loser this guy is I 
thought as I shook his hand happily and 
agreed on my future career with HP. I had 
lied about my work history. I knew I 
couldn't tell him that my last job, before I 
was laid off, was a lumper with the Teams- 
ters Union making twice the wage I was to 
start out as at HP. Anyone with union 
background is tainted at HP. 

I was sent to a big introduction to the 
company, to "see the garage" as they say. 
It was a four hour media extravaganza with 
a talk by some VIP, a slideshow, and a big 
presentation by personnel on "The HP 
Way." The garage was the highlight of the 
slide show, the garage being the place 
where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard built 
their first instrument, an oscillator for the 
Walt Disney production of "Fantasia." 1 
was fully indoctrinated by the end of these 
four hours and found myself becoming an 
android for Bill and Dave. I kept trying not 
to think about the time when Dave Packard 
was Undersecretary of Defense for Nixon 
at the time of the Vietnam War and a group 
of us lit fire to the hotel he was speaking at. 
The flames were licking around the hotel 
and we could actually see Packard and his 
buddies at the top of the hotel. We all 
chanted "Pig Nixon, you're never gonna 
kill us all" as we blocked the arrival of the 
firetrucks. It took several squads of riot 


cops to break us loose and send us 
scattering into the balmy Palo Alto night. 
That was a long time ago however. 

My first place of employment at HP was 
phased out of existence as they moved to 
their Santa Rosa facility where the wages 
were cheaper. They started moving regular 
employees to other worksites and bringing 
temporaries in to take their places until 
production was halted for good. Almost 
every temporary was black. That was 
weird. There were 1 or 2 black employees 
out of several hundred people in my area. 
HP claims its racial percentage is better 
than average. HP is a very large employer 
for the area and obviously hires very few 
blacks. This leaves a lopsided percentage 
to look for work as temporaries. My boss 
explained it to me at one "Beer Bust." 
This is where they roll out a few kegs of 
beer and some hot dogs to express their 
appreciation of us. 

'Blacks aren't good workers," my 
boss explained to me, quickly looking 
around making sure no one was in earshot. 
He was quite delighted at sharing his little 
philosophy with me, an obviously sympa- 
thetic white man. "They're just trouble 
makers, we prefer the orientals." The 
plant was full of Filipinos, Vietnamese, and 
Mexican and Latin Americans. Not Chi- 
canos but green card workers. HP ensures 
its workforce will be people not in a good 
position to make "selfish" demands on the 

I arrive back at my bench. It's time for 
"button up." I receive a finished instru- 
ment from the technician after it's been 
assembled, wired, and burned in. (Ran in a 
hot box for several days.) It's now ready to 
get the final covers on it. I bring it over to 
the button up area. I fill in the forms for 
shipping/receiving and check the instru- 
ment for damage or paint chips. I clean the 
unit up. Put it on a cart and I'm off 
wheeling this new machine to the stock 
room. None of us assemblers really know 
what these things do. We only know it goes 
with a bunch of other instruments, a 
computer, a CRT screen and a keyboard 
and costs around 200,000 dollars. Occa- 
sionally we see who buys them. General 
Motors, Lockheed, the Swedish Air Force. 
They are Fourier Analyzers. That's not the 
only thing we make here though. Within 
these five buildings we produce hundreds 
of different instruments. From lasers to 
custom integrated circuits. I wheel my cart 
around into the stockroom and dump it on 
another table. Will comes and checks it off 
on his list. Will is a different breed of 
employee. Most of the workers here are 
young. Will is in his fifties, from the old 
school of electronics of electron tubes and 
military jargon. He's head of the HP 
garden club. There is a several acre lot 

outside the building that has been plowed 
up and fenced in. It was divided into about 
50 parcels of land. We could sign up for 
one of them and grow crops on it. I signed 
up as I love gardening and could use some 
free vegetables. Several days a week I 
would join scores of others filing out to the 
garden to hoe, plant, and water in the 
slanting afternoon sun, the HP monolith 
hovering in the background. The scene 
brought to mind a post-1984 nightmare, 
serfdom of the future. Working in the plant 
all day and growing your crops outside. It 
just lacked the barracks to sleep in. Our 
crops were coming along OK. At least I 
thought so. From the front of the garden, 
with the factory in the background my 
cucumbers and tomatoes were doing fine. 
Most of my plot went to corn though. I 
noticed that as I walked into the corn patch 
the closest rows were lush and green, but 

as I walked closer to the factory, the plants 
were sickly and yellow and the last third of 
them had not even come up at ail. I thought 
at first that I was just lazy and not watering 
the rear as much as the front, but one day I 
took a sweeping look of the whole HP 
garden club and noticed that a giant line of 
sickly yellow had been drawn down the 
width of the garden plot. One third of the 
garden was poisoned! Then I realized that 
the whole plot of land that stretched from 
the garden plot to the building had not one 
blade of grass or weed on it. We were 
gardening on the edge of some sea of 
poisonous chemicals! I was thankful that I 
hadn't carried home a load of chemical 
soaked vegetables to my wife who was 
pregnant at the time. I pointed this 
chemical sweep out to the garden club 
officials, but they thought it would still be 
OK to eat the vegetables that survived the 
chemical holocaust. That was the end of my 
green thumb. I let my poor garden shrivel 
in the sun. 






I'm back at my bench again, assembling, 
assembling, assembling. I've run out of 
excuses to leave my bench. I've gotten 
parts out of the stockroom, I've delivered 
to the stockroom, I've gone to the bath- 
room, I went to get some more shipping 
forms. I've accepted the fact of working till 
the afternoon break. It's amazing what you 
will get used to. You do develop some pride 
in your ability to do simple things. I can 
assemble these things very fast when I 
want to which is not very often. Me and one 
other woman are the only ones who know 
how to assemble these things. She trained 
me as she will retire in several years. Bess 
has been doing this job for almost thirty 
years, another old-timer. I was asked to 
document the assembly of this product as I 
learned the procedure, but I stopped after 
a few weeks. We're more valuable this 

Second break. More coffee comes rolling 
down the aisle. I grab a cup and I'm off at a 

fast pace to visit some friends in another 
building. It's about a 3 minute walk to get 
there and I only have ten minutes. I run 
past the stock area, past the machine shop, 
past the degreasing area with its vats of 
steaming chemicals. I walk into the vast 
Printed Circuit Board area. There's about 
50 women sitting in front of little racks of 
Printed Circuit boards, loading them up 
with capacitors. Integrated Circuits, and 
resistors. Pairs of reddening eyes look up 
from their giant illuminated magnifying 
glasses and microscopes. I see my friends, 
Laura and Rose standing up and stretching 
in the walkway. Laura had worked with me 
at my last jobsite for HP and transferred 
here also. We go out the back door and 
cross the parking lot to smoke a joint in 
Rose's car. Both complain of their super- 
visors. The printed circuit area is a very 
harrassed area. Lots of bickering and 
quarreling. The stories they tell remind me 
of the movie "Caged" where the matronly 

women jailers harrass and torment their 
prisoners, mostly young women. We finish 
the joint and run back to the building. I still 
must reach my area in a matter of minutes. 
Being a few minutes late from break time 
can be an excuse for a lousy or no pay raise 
come review time. 

It won't be long now. The final stretch of 
the afternoon has begun. My eyes are 
fatigued. My fingers are trembling from 
dexteriously manipulating hardware all 
day. I'm bored to death. I've run out of 
reminiscences, sexual fantasies, and day- 
dreams. I think of what I'm going to do 
tonight. The early risers are starting to 
drift out. Our "flextime" enables us to 
come to work within a two hour time slot, 
work our hours and leave. Sometimes I 
appreciate this flexibility, but I really miss 
the power I felt working in the factory when 
we all arrived en masse to take control of 
the machines. Even as wage slaves, there 
is something very powerful when a shift of 
workers leaves the production lines at the 
same time and march out of the plant 
together. Something that reinforced and 
gave the impression of unity and solidarity. 
Here, in silicon valley, they have us believe 
that we voluntarily come to work on our 
own accord and at our own convenience. 
What a joke. 

Finally I have five minutes to go. I start 
cleaning up my area. Put away the tools. I 
nod goodbye to my co-workers. "See ya 
tomorrow, take it easy." I'm out the door. 
Fresh air, how great. Cars are revving up 
and twisting out of the parking lot. I check 
the paint on my car. A few rust spots, 
that's all. A few weeks ago it was 
discovered that the ventilation system was 
fouled up and raw chemical fumes were 
being emitted from the "smoke stacks." It 
had stripped the paint off of 300 cars and 
HP paid for new paint jobs for all of them. 
At first I thought how generous, but what 
other damage had been done? What did it 
do to our lungs or the lungs of nearby 
housing tract neighbors? New paint jobs 
were, I guess, a small price to pay. I was 
surprised that not one thing about it 
appeared in the newspapers. Electronics is 
such a "clean" industry. But then many 
stories I've heard about chemical dumping 
and poisonous fumes never appear in the 

I cruise out of the parking lot and join the 
crawling freeway traffic back to the East 
Bay. Hi tech workers creeping alongside 
auto workers and warehouse workers. The 
only real difference between us high-tech 
workers and industrial workers is that we 
get paid half the amount. But then, that's 
the HP way. 

— by jay Clemens 



Loafers & Winos 


P at Skx I'M LATE roommate's got the shower 
DAMN It's COLD this is summer? Going to 
union hiring hall at least avoiding personnel 
sniffing my stinky armpits while I await student finan- 
cial aid GOTTA piss bad fumble with shirt pants 
stumble down silent drowsy hallway OH NO if union 
officers notice my two year absence from hall in school 
paying cheapie unemployed dues they'll UGH my 
roommate's strange goofy morose part time boyfriend 
sits at kitchen table made the coffee thanks and lights 
up a joint he asks: Toke? Why not? Weed and coffee I'll 
be flying I'M SCARED a union officer scrunching up 
his face — "Haven't seen you around here past year 
buddy let's see your records" — good to piss finally 
wash face take a few more tokes gulp down coffee 
GUILTY shouts Local 6 President "of stealing 
privileges of union membership while attending school 
fulltime without regard for unemployed union bro- 
thers" OOOHH back to my room undercover snuggle 
with drowsy lover long hug make up after awful 
weekend fight soft heavenly flight warmth touch flesh 

OUT the door SCARED in my pocket "NICARAGUA 
INVASION" Claustrophobia of urban scraping by 
thousands huddling here on Shotwell Street Barrio 
Folsom 21st Street playground drugs basketball turf 
Folsom Boys Rule Y Que Fire Department Pacific Gas 

& Electric the closeness of war Ironworkers Hall fellow 
in car with Ironworkers patch on cap talking with wife at 
wheel "Don't start talking like..." 

No vacation summer here 

No Esprit De Corps t-shirts or Mediterranean sunlight 

Gray thick blanket gray fog 

its hues reflected onto streets buildings people 

This is San Francisco too 

Daily grind of lumbering into work daily 

I'm shivering need heavier jacket is it the dope 
SCARED eyes scrutinizing ears listening haven't 
seen you around hall deserter from the ranks of the 
proletariat RUSHING traffic down 18th Street but Shot- 
well Street sleeps jacked up cars snoozing on sidewalk a 
box of tools left out unstolen watched by neighbors at 
6:45? Passing Mission Health Center mural's fertile 
man/woman/child happily gazing cross street at Kil- 
patrick's Bakery whose pipes jut out: "VEG OIL" 
"SUGAR" — within graying 47 year olds coated with 
white wonder twinkle flour sugar and one 31 year old 
boyfriend of waitress at Rite Spot Cafe half block down 
her parents are intellectuals and she likes Sunday 
gospel services in Oakland RIGHT turn on 14th Street 
left on Folsom under freeway rushing walls scrawled 
"L'il Smiley" "Poor whites are the niggers of the 
revolution" past The Stud where only two nights ago I 
was drinking dancing walking weezy home past the 
TOOLMASTER store where it was spray painted "Oh 



Toolmaster... Master Me" and "Master- 
bation causes tool damage" Still 
SCARED will I know anyone? Did they 
see me at The Stud? left on 11th Street 
left on Harrison past old beer brewery 
walls knocked out years ago empty 
uprooted vats sprawling fence torn 
WHERE ARE the winos street people 
junkies urban beasts and goblins and 
drunken thrill seeking teenagers staking 
out territory at night WHY is my heart 

Here hall is spray painted "International 
Loafers and Winos Union" Seven men 
slouching outside eye me curiously I nod 
PUSH frosted fog plexiglass door mak- 
ing gray sun grayer smoke flourescent- 
filled room BARS at Dispatch Window 
union newsletter dispatch rules and new 
stringent rules for people avoiding 
DUES in line at dispatcher's window my 
god it's Hefferson at window old time 
400 lb. stand-up comedian alcoholic town 
fool who somebody says has cleaned up 
still gets soused occasionally and one of 
his kids takes him home and I always 
thought he lived in welfare hotels and 
when I make it to the window Hefferson 
says "10130? Yer number ain't been on 
the job board for awhile— have to wait 
till after jobs go out to activate yer 
number" Okay just wanted to check on 
my number man STUPID so I came here 
for nothing wait 105 minutes for nothing 
oh well here I am 

Nobody I know but the little red faced 
guy who never talked once in my 5 years 
at JOLLY FOODS which is topic of con- 
versation of three other guys so I ask: 
they hiring still, what's it like? "You 
worked there?" FEAR cannot reveal my 
illegal student status I say Yeah worked 
there 5 years but just got sick of it quit a 
couple of years ago — the three guys turn 
to me 


You gave up a permanent position at 

Jolly Foods? 


Very very sad 

Their eyes are wide with pity and wonder 

at strange creature leaping to certain 

death a lemming wildly hopping out to 


My excuse: young single restless male 
OUTSIDE breathe cool gray air cooly 
startled turn to find Angel my favorite 
Mexican Jolly Foods new Christian shop 
steward "How are you my friend?" 
sweet voice like fog floating over a hill- 
side of three year absence FIRED Angel 
while visiting an ailing relative in Mexico 

and THREATENED to terminate me 
year before that when my Dad dared to 
stay alive on his deathbed longer than 
three weeks JOLLY still making Angel 
pay for his sins he describes his eleven 
jobs since then he recalls the cursed 
name of JOLLY personnel executioner 
PINKERTON: no shit when he used to 
work at Schlage Lock people threw tools 
at him when he walked through the shop 
just like they did to his strikebreaking 
ancestors and when Angel saw him last 
week face full of warts scabs monster 
before our very eyes COLD 

Inside sitting near dumpy old guy with 
bulging eyes wool cap Local 6-style 
Rodney Dangerfie'd close enough to be 

friendly not too close to be presumptu- 
ous reading of severed heads hearts 
homes wariscoming wariscoming ameri- 
can prez sez war soon if contadora guys 
don't negotiate something RAGE sink- 
ing into daily routine job school 

Am I dying? 

But walking to the hall I was 

alive scared 

alive worried 

alive shivering 

but money — but trapped — but moving — 

but happy away from muggysummers 

Rodney is talking cut in unemployment 
benefits 'cause recession is over it's only 
melancholy 8.9% hear "So recession is 

I told 'em they should join the Army 
good benefits work on computers it's 
wave of the future Rodney and friend 
spoke earnestly "I'm too old for the 
military" "I already did my time" so we 
get to talking they're both from Wall- 
worth's closed down "this is ['eagan 
country" whole warehouse a year ago 
"consolidation of operations another big 
warehouse shut tight another St. Regis 

These 47 year old guys 
bunch of fish flip-flopping wildly on 
beach their scales do not shimmer in the 
sun the grungy greengraybrown walls/ 
light (Angel is waiting for the flying fish 
of the future) 

They ask where I worked my true 
confessions I quit Jolly Foods to go to 
school nine months unemployment bene- 
fits— NO— I did not tell them of bolshe- 
vik burnout, Rhonda, Miguel, bisexu- 
ality. The Stud, about how good it felt 
being fucked till he started pushing too 
hard — so I say night work was steady 
when I was at Jolly Rodney says Jolly 
doesn't hire for night production any- 

Hefferson takes the dispatch mike: "No 
jobs yet Coffee truck is here if you want 
something" Guy standing in front 
bellows: "Fuck you and the coffee 
truck!" As people saunter out I'm still 
giggling to myself why I don't know 
getting drowsy will go home to sleep 
soon Hefferson closes job board five 
minutes early so I can finally put my 
number up on job board behind 40 others 
maybe I should take that temp painting 
job STOP LOOK LISTEN: there are only 
three or four guys under 30 in this hall 

Sitting down again near Rodney listen- 
ing to his genial conversation with black 
guy his age they worked at Wallworth's 
Rodney wants to leave at five past 9 
turns to his friend 

"Hey man gimme a dollar's worth of 

"Shee-it, what choo want a dollar's 
worth of change for?" 
"For my daughter," Rodney says. 
"Sheee-it, a dollar's worth o' change for 
his daughter— shhee-it" 
Rodney trudges out back to his house in 
Visitacion Valley paid off but taxes are a 
bitch and it's too small to rent you know 
There was an old man 
who swallowed a house 
he died, of course. 

by Jeff Goldthorpe 




S$:v>:::^-:-:-:-:':-:-:':vi?":-:-x'x^^ ^^ 

% ^ % 


IKE unwanted guests, computer hazards do not 
announce themselves. They inspire sharp 
denials of responsibility, but are awkwardly 
tolerated. No one seems to know from whence they 
came, and the most obvious ways of confronting them 
are often overlooked. 

More than 20 million workers spend more than 25 
billion hours per year working with computers. Offices 
install them at a rate approaching 3,000 per day. As 
computers change the way workers work and managers 
manage, business and government develop a profound 
dependency on them. As a result, disinterested 
answers to computer safety questions are hard to come 

Corporations and government agencies have ig- 
nored, covered up, obscured, or refused to conduct 
research into computer hazards. But the disturbing 
evidence continues to accumulate and is now difficult, 
even for the computer faithful, to ignore. 

That evidence includes research corroborating eleven 
clusters of miscarriages, birth defects, and problem 
pregnancies among women working with or near 
computers in North America (see PW #10 "The Ugly 
Truth About VDTs"). Concern has prompted the 
introduction of protective legislation in over half the 
states in the U.S. this year, as well as preparations for 
extensive NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational 
Safety and Health) and other studies of computer 
hazards. In response, computer boosters are launching 
campaigns to oppose and dilute proposed regulations— 


and to douse the discouraging words about computers. 
These campaigns appear to be paying off. 

The most disturbing biological changes experiment- 
ally associated with computers come from radiation and 
electromagnetic fields. These, unlike the coal soot, 
cotton dust, and asbestos hazards found in mines, 
mills, and construction sites, elude the senses. They 
may be linked to chronic disorders that take years to 

It's likely that a combination of elements conspire 
against computer workers' health. The elements 
include air quality, lighting, and the way management 
deploys computers, as well as radiation emissions. This 
complicates research. For example, a laboratory study 
of computer radiation that fails to reproduce office air 
and lighting conditions may not confirm a suspected 
computer hazard. Research insensitive to these 
conditions can produce equivocal results, which 
computer corporations applaud as evidence for ignoring 
the hazards. 

A 1979 NIOSH study ("An Investigation of Health 
Complaints and Job Stress in Video Display Opera- 
tors,") suggested links between computer hazards 
symptoms, management's use of computers, and work- 
place division of labor. The study included data-entry 
clerks at San Francisco's Blue Shield Insurance 
worksite as well as reporters and editors at San 
Francisco newspapers. The study linked significant 
eye, back, and neck strain, headaches, fatigue, and 
tension to computer workers relative to a non-computer 

•:•:•:• .^•■- •■^■"'^^^•H^■T^^*:o:?f^^%•:•x•:•:•;•. . i^ :-:-'-'vS:-''''"-'''"'' 

using control group. But it also found 
that the more control workers had over 
computers and job tasks, the less stress 
they experienced. 

After completion of the study, NIOSH 
psychologist Dr. Michael Smith com- 
mented on the hellish pace of computer- 
ized work for the data-entry clerks: 
"These jobs are repetitious and every 
little keystroke that an individual makes 
is recorded by the computer and a super- 
visor has only fo look into a video tube to 
be able to key in on particular individuals 
and their performance. Partly as a result 
of this, VDT operators have the highest 
stress jobs that we've ever seen — and 
we've been in the stress business for ten 
years." On the other hand, the news 
reporters and editors NIOSH studied had 
fewer complaints about their computers, 
a fact that researchers linked to greater 
"flexibility, control over job tasks, and 
utilization of their education." (from 
0/f/ce Hazards, by Joel Makower, Tilden 
Press, Washington, D.C., 1981, p. 133) 
In January, 1985, Suzanne Haynes, 
chief of medical statistics for the 
National Center of Health Statistics, 
presented findings of a study of 500 

workers at (AT&T Communications') 
Southern Bell telephone company in 
North Carolina. Research included 278 
computer users and a control group of 
218 non-computer users. The study 
confirmed the 1979-80 NIOSH findings 
linking computer use to a variety of 
mild-to-debilitating aches and pains. 

Haynes' research also found that after 
more than 4 hours in front of a computer 
terminal, nearly 1 in 5 workers reported 
angina symptoms — about ten times the 
normal rate. (Angina is chest pain that 
occurs when coronary arteries constrict 
resulting in a lack of oxygen to the 

These findings may point to profound, 
computer-induced pathology; more pro- 
bably, they reflect the wear and tear of 
unbridled productivity which computers 
make possible in many workplaces. 

Like the Blue Shield workers, tele- 
phone workers, such as those in Haynes' 
study, inhabit workplaces thrown into 
high gear by computers equipped with 
Orweilian software. Computers measure 
operators' performance and speed 
against ever-increasing work quotas, 
monitor restroom trips, lunch periods. 

and announce staggered workbreaks 
that diminish the possibilities of informal 
contact with fellow workers. 

Haynes tacitly indicted Southern 
Bell's deployment of computers, attri- 
buting the telephone workers' angina 
symptoms to computerized productivity 
demands, and long hours without ade- 
quate breaks in close quarters and with 
little human contact. 

Here's a breakdown of what's known 
about computer hazards in light of 
additional research. 


Computer workers can and do react to 
glare from display screens, but glare 
symptoms are neither acute nor physio- 
logically exotic, and thus easily confused 
with chronic cold- and flu-like symp- 

Glare from computer screens can 
cause (or worsen) eyestrain and body- 
aches (symptoms also occuring in glare- 
free computer environments). Clare 
induces squinting and awkward posture 
to avoid blind spots and image-obscuring 
reflections on computer screens. Bright- 


Secretary Jane's keystroke count can slump anytime: during the first hour of work before 
sleep's cobwebs have cleared, at 11:45 when thoughts of lunch intervene, or after 3:00 in that 
mid-afternoon doldrum. 

Whenever it happens, PRESS® (Performance Reinforcement Electronics and Software System) 
is ready to help. If Jane's count drops below your chosen margin for more than three minutes, a 
subliminal warning flickers at the top of the screen. And if Jane still hasn't pulled herself together 
after two more minutes, a healthy 1-second jolt of 50 volts pulses out of her specially modified 
keyboard and grounds harmlessly through her chair. It's guaranteed to get her moving again! And if 
Jane "steps away from her desk" for more than three minutes without prior supervisor approval, 
PRESS® will dole out a similar jolt as a little corrective reminder when she sits down to work agam. 

PRESS® -The Automated Zap that gives your workers ZIP! 

From COMTEK — The Productivity People 



ness and contrast controls and non-glare 
screens can reduce glare but often create 
a new eyesore: inadequate character 

Bad lighting on glass screens causes 
glare. Office lighting designed for filing, 
typing, copying, mailing, etc., as well as 
reflective office wall and desk surface, 
are ill-suited for computer work. Also, 
electronic interference from other com- 
puters, flickering lights, a heart pace- 
maker, and even digital watches, car- 
peting and polyester clothing (a reservoir 
of static electricity) can strain eyes by 
reducing image clarity on the screen. 

Screen glare is related to a broader 
visual problem. "Humans are equipped 
with hunter soldier eyes, made for 
distance vision. Using eyes for close 
work already requires adjustments; 
VDTs (Video Display Terminals) compli- 
cate the task," according to Silicon 
Valley optometrist Dennis Olson. "Over 
a long time the problems that at first 
cause headaches and blurred vision only 
for a half hour after work can become 
permanent," adds Dr. Charles Margach, 
a Southern California College optometry 
professor. Computer workers, especially 
those already wearing lenses, may 
require special, corrective "computer" 

You can test the glare from your 
screen by moving a hand mirror along 
the screen with the reflective face out; 
reflected light — from walls, furniture, 
picture frames, ceilings, or light sources 
— is a potential source of glare. 

Electromagnetic Field 

On most display units in use today, 
computer images are constructed by a 
TV-like device that fires electron beams 
from behind the glass screen. The 
electron beams — also known as cathode 
rays — selectively excite tiny green, am- 
ber, or multi-colored phosphors to form 
characters and images. The device is 
called a flyback transformer— "flyback" 
describes the rapid, methodical sweep of 
the electron beams; "transformer" des- 
cribes the conversion of data in computer 
memory into recognizable images on the 
screen. The rare-earth elements called 
phosphors lie directly underneath the 
glass screen. Phosphors glow only 
temporarily upon absorbing the electron 
beam. They must be re-stimulated or 
"refreshed" up to 30 to 60 times a 
second in order to form an image that 
appears stable to human eyes. 

The phosphors absorb the flyback 
transformer beams imperfectly. As a 
result, an overflow of static electricity 
accumulates and hovers around the glass 
screen's surface. This forms an electro- 


magnetic field that bombards the screen 
and the operator's face, upper body and 
arms with positively charged dust, soot, 
germs and other particles. These be- 
come lodged in the skin and eyes and on 
the screen. This phenomenon probably 
accounts for the red eyes, conjunctivitus, 
skin rashes and a gamut of allergic 
responses including fatigue, drowsiness, 
sinus problems, and headaches that 
afflict many computers users. When pro- 
longed, such concentrated exposure can 
produce a "sensitized" condition in 
which only brief exposure to substances 
is sufficient to produce symptoms. The 
University of Pittsburgh School of Medi- 
cine's Department of Dermatology re- 
cently reported "a patient with a derma- 
titis of his hands and distal forearms 
which we feel was caused by exposure to 
his visual display unit at work." 

In the energy-stingy, "sealed" en- 
vironment of the modern office, electro- 
magnetic bombardment from computers 
assumes dangerous proportions. Offices 
generate copier fumes, including ozone, 
and formaldehyde, radon, and other 
toxic substances emitted by the normal 
deterioration of furniture, walls, and 
carpets. In addition, harmful micro- 
organisms and viruses can grow in 
ventilation systems. "Tight Building 
Syndrome," "humidifier lung," and 
other colloquialisms describe maladies 
caused by toxic particles, germs and 
viruses circulating in poorly ventilated 
worksites. Researchers now worry that 

particle bombardment from computer- 
generated electromagnetic fields may 
act like fuel-injection in cars, accelera- 
ting the rate and effects of exposure to 
otherwise small amounts of ambient 
organic and inorganic irritants. 

Electromagnetic fields also cause com- 
puter workers to inhale an abnormal 
concentration of positive ions. The 
absence of negative ions may affect 
biochemistry in ways that are not yet 
clear, but that may induce mood swings 
and long-term health changes including 
insomnia, asthma and hormonal imba- 


Computers emit two kinds of radia- 
tion; ionizing and nonionizing. The more 
clearly dangerous of the two is ionizing 
radiation, including X-rays. There is no 
question that X-rays heat human tissue, 
alter cell structures, and cause birth 
defects, cancer, chromosome damage, 
premature aging, and cataracts. Govern- 
ment and industry officials claim that 
X-ray emissions from computers, like 
those from TV, are insignificant or nil. 

The other kind, nonionizing radiation, 
is lower in energy than X-rays and 
includes visible light, microwaves, infra- 
red waves, radio frequency (RF) waves, 
and very low frequency (VLF— also 
known as Extremely Low Frequency — 
ELF) waves such as household electrical 
current. Computers emit RF, VLF, and 
microwave nonionizing radiation, 


though the latter is disputed. VLF 
radiation is almost impossible to ac- 
curately gauge outside of a lab. 

Desktop computers emit radiation in 
pulses — 16,000 every second on most 
models. Radiation levels are highest 
near the computer terminal's flyback 
transformer. This means that workers 
sitting behind or near computers also 
may be exposed. 

Until recently, nonionizing radiation 
was thought biologically harmless. But 
microwave, RF, and VLF radiation have 
been associated with blood, cell, brain, 
heart, and fertility abnormalities. What 
is known about all three types of non- 
ionizing radiation cannot be considered 
reassuring to computer workers. Con- 
sider the following studies: 

• In April, 1985, a Swedish neurologist 
reported symptoms of brain damage, an 
abnormal spinal fluid protein, and 
severe mental impairment in radar main- 
tenance workers exposed to microwave 
radiation for 10 years or more. 

• Two studies concluded that electro- 
magnetic fields can alter heart rates; in 
one, biologist Allen Grey at Randomline, 
Inc. stopped frog hearts with nonionizing 
radiation; in another. University of Utah 
researcher John Lords used microwaves 
to speed up and slow down turtle hearts. 

• A joint Department of Energy and 
New York State Department of Health 
study at the Midwest Research Institute 
in Kansas City, Mo., showed that a 
group of 21-35 year-old males experi- 
enced slowed heart rates and altered 
brain wave patterns when exposed to 
nonionizing radiation fields. 

• A soon-to-be-published Maryland 
Department of Health and Mental 
Hygiene study of 951 men who died of 
brain tumors between 1969 and 1982 
concluded that "electromagnetic expo- 
sure may be associated with the patho- 
genesis [onset] of brain tumors." The 
tumor-victim study revealed "a dispro- 
portionate representation of workers 
employed in occupations associated with 
electricity or electromagnetic fields." 

• Research in Czechoslovakia, Sweden, 
and Spain has linked VLF radiation to 
adverse effects on animal embryos. In 
1982, Madrid researchers found that 
pulsed magnetic fields had dramatic, 
adverse effects on chick embryos, in- 
cluding severe brain damage, undev- 
eloped nervous systems and improperly 
formed hearts. Subsequent research 
showed that such effects were caused by 
the shape of the VLF pulse. Additional 
tests indicate that, in both shape and 
intensity, computer-emitted VLF pulses 
are similar to those that damaged the 
chick embryos in Madrid. 

Sleazy Research 

The Madrid findings suggest the link 
between the eleven clusters of problem 
pregnancies and computers. But the 
veracity of research is in the eyes of the 
beholder. In testimony before a congres- 
sional committee, representatives from 
the American College of Obstetricians 
and Gynecologists rejected radiation as 
the cause of computer workers' miscar- 

No enforceable standards for exposure 
levels to most kinds of nonionizing 
radiation exist in the U.S.; if they did, 
they would be enforceable by OSHA only 
as "suggested guidelines." U.S. micro- 
wave exposure levels are among the 
highest in the world. Exposure levels for 
X-rays are negotiable. For example, by 
dint of a government-industry agree- 
ment, hospital and nuclear energy 
industry workers enjoy a 5 rem per year 
maximum dose of X-rays, a standard 10 
times that for the general population. 
Existing standards are the products of a 
sleazy history of government-sponsored 
research into computer and radiation 

The U.S. government ignored early 
international warnings about microwave 
hazards for decades, as well as domestic 
studies (conducted by consultants for the 
Department of Defense in the 50s and 
60s) linking microwaves to cataracts. 

The CIA conducted secret microwave 
research beginning in 1962 after com- 
plaints of bleeding eyes, nausea, and 
suspected chromosome damage from 
U.S. embassy personnel in Moscow. The 
USSR, which studied microwaves exten- 
sively, apparently beamed microwaves 
at the embassy. The results of the CIA's 
research were kept secret. It's possible 
that the embassy microwave transmis- 
sions fell within subsequent U.S. expo- 
sure levels set in 1966 at 10 milliwatts 
per square centimeter per hour, a level 
one thousand times higher than that of 
the Soviet Union. But it was not long 
before the U.S. standards became the 
center of one of the first widely 
publicized computer hazard controver- 

In 1977, two New York Times copy 
editors developed cataracts after work- 
ing on a new computer system for six 
months. Their doctors suggested the link 
between cataracts and computer-emitted 
microwaves. With the help of the 
Newspaper Guild, the copy editors 
pursued grievance proceedings. NIOSH 
and the Center for Disease Control were 
called in on the case and found 
nonionizing radiation at levels below the 
bloated 10 milliwatt standard. As a 
result, the case was dropped. Dr. Milton 

Zaret, an opthalmologist, veteran micro- 
wave researcher, and consultant for the 
7/mes workers, maintained that no level 
of radiation has yet been proved safe. 

In 1981, with evidence of microwave 
damage mounting, the American Na- 
tional Standards Institute adopted a new 
microwave exposure limit of one milli- 
watt per square centimeter, one-tenth 
the previous U.S. standard, though still 
among the highest in the world. 

Suspect research also underpins gov- 
ernment claims regarding computer- 
emitted X-rays. In 1981, the Food and 
Drug Administration's (FDA's) Bureau 
of Radiological Health supposedly tested 
125 computer terminals for radiation, 
finding that "VDTs emit little or no 
harmful [X-ray] radiation under normal 
operating conditions." The agency also 
reported finding 'insignificant' amounts 
of microwave and RF radiation. 

On the face of it, the tests were 
inadequate; most computers were not 
tested. Among those tested, the highest 
emission levels were estimated to be 2 
millirems per hour. In Office Worl< Can 
Be Dangerous To Your Healtti (Pantheon 
N.Y. 1983), Stellman and Henifin note 
that: " a typical usage rate of 6 
hours per day for 50 weeks per year, the 
total average exposure would be 3 rems 
per year, which substantially exceeds 
the 0.5 rem per year limit for the general 
population. A pregnant woman opera- 
ting such a machine for 36 weeks of her 
pregnancy could be exposed to levels in 
excess of those recommended by the 
government for pregnant women." 

As it is, the numbers that emerged 
from the FDA's tests are hardly what 
statistics people call "robust." In testi- 
mony before Congress, Bureau of Radio- 
logical Health chief John Villforth ad- 
mitted that his agency's reassuring find- 
ings were based only upon theoretical 
computer models — the agency had not 
actually performed any radiation tests. 
Dr. Zaret called the FDA's research 
methods "idiotic." (Makower, p. 118 

By FCC decree, computers and kin- 
dred devices built after October, 1983, 
must emit lesser amounts of RF radia- 
tion. Reflecting priorities computer wor- 
kers may not fully appreciate, the FCC 
was moved to action by increasing com- 
plaints that RF radiation was interfering 
with radio and television reception — not 
by concern for the health and safety of 
computer users. RF interference became 
a problem as profit-minded computer 
manufacturers shifted from the safer, 
metal computer shells to cheaper, plastic 
ones. Compared to metal, plastic pro- 
vides little or no radiation protection. 



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Apparently, though, computers sold 
since the 1983 FCC ruling took effect 
continue to leak significant levels of RF 
radiation. At a cost of over $1 billion 
annually, computer equipment bought 
by the National Security Agency through 
its Tempest program is "ruggedized" — 
i.e., shielded or covered with electrically 
conductive plastic or paint to seal off RF 
radiation. The NSA wants to preempt 
electronic eavesdropping through RF 
signal detection, not prevent RF radia- 
tion symptoms among its workers. 

in light of all this, the announcement 
of a new epidemiological computer 
hazards study by NIOSH is a qualified 
bright spot. NIOSH will examine 6,000 
married, employed women of child- 
bearing age; half of the subjects will be 
computer operators in nonmanagement 
positions, and the other half will be 
nonusers acting as the study's control 
group. The NIOSH study may someday 
produce profound results. But Micro- 
wave News editor Louis Slesin cautions 
us not to hold our breath: "[The NIOSH 
study] will take three years to complete 
after a study population is selected and a 
questionnaire is cleared by the federal 
Office of Management and Budget. The 
latter step alone could take years." 

Slesin observes of previous NIOSH com- 
puter hazards research "After conduct- 
ing numerous [job site] surveys of VDT 
radiation levels and issuing countless 
assurances that radiation emissions are 
not threatening, NIOSH staff members 
admitted in the spring of 1983 that they 
could not measure VLF [radiation] at a 
job site." 

The NIOSH study bucks a trend. This 
October, the EPA will dissolve its non- 
ionizing radiation research group at the 
Health Effects Research Laboratory in 
Research Triangle Park, N.C. Last year, 
the EPA concluded a five-year study of 
broadcast frequencies, which is said to 
be responsible for 90% of the non- 
ionizing radiation to which Americans 
are exposed. On the eve of publication 
of the EPA's suggested guidelines in the 
Federal Register, they were dropped as 
a result of what the Washington Post 
called "a high-level, internal agency 
review." The Post characterized the 
guidelines as "the first step toward 
setting standards for nonionizing radia- 
tion exposure to the general popula- 
tion." Even the Department of Defense, 
which can hardly complain of under- 
funding, is drastically cutting monies for 
nonionizing radiation research. And this 

fall, the Department of Energy is 
slashing by one half the budget for its 
Electric Energy Systems Division, which 
studies the effects of power lines on 

Computer Legislation 

Last year, 9 to 5, the National 
Association of Working Women, and the 
Service Employees International Union 
undertook lobbying campaigns to intro- 
duce computer safety bills in 18 state 
legislatures. Approximately 25 states are 
expected to hear such bills this year. 

The proposed legislation varies wide- 
ly, from right-to-know bills that would 
familiarize workers with healthful com- 
puter use and maintenance, to computer 
purchasing guidelines for state agencies, 
to so-called "ergonomic bills" requiring 
employers to provide nonglare shields, 
adjustable screens, removable key- 
boards, work breaks, and/or non-com- 
puter work for pregnant workers. 

As of March this year, computer 
hazards legislation was furthest along in 
Oregon. The proposed bill, a diluted 
version of one introduced last year, 
would require the state to set up an 
education program for employers and 
generate guidelines for computer use. 
But the guidelines would be optional for 
private employers, and binding only for 
state agencies where computers are used 
for four hours or more each day. 
Computers already in use would be 

Oregon Governor Victor Atiyeh, with 
one eye on the developing Beaverton- 
area high tech industry ("Silicon For- 
est"), pledges to veto the bill. Beaver- 
ton-based Tektronix Corp., a giant com- 
puter firm and the state's largest 
employer, leads the opposition. Tek- 
tronix makes large, high resolution 
computer screens that may pose a higher 
risk to users than smaller computer 
screens. Ironically, the higher-risk group 
includes computer-making engineers, 
who work with the larger screens to 
design and layout microchip logic. 

In Massachusetts, hearings on seven 
computer safety bills were scheduled to 
begin in April. The state legislature has 
rejected such bills during each of the 
past five years, boasts the Associated 
Industries of Massachusetts, a coalition 
of pro-computer industries. Last year, 
according to ComputerWorld (March 25, 
1985), Massachusetts decreed voluntary 
computer safety guidelines and pur- 
chasing specifications, and granted 
$75,000 to study computer hazards. 
According to 9 to 5's Elaine Taber, the 
voluntary guidelines are for public sector 
workers only and do not comprehen- 
sively address computer hazards. 



In California last year, a heavy 
industry lobby persuaded politicians to 
drop proposed computer hazards legis- 
lation. The bill, introduced by Tom 
Hayden, called for adequate lighting, 
periodic breaks, and glare screens or 
brightness and contrast controls for 
computer workers. It also mandated 
radiation shielding and alternative work 
for pregnant women — demands that 
were dropped "for strategic reasons," 
according to a supporter, when the bill 
was re-introduced in the state legislature 
this year. That bill was recently tabled, 
and proponents have conceded defeat. 
Another bill mandating employer cover- 
age of eye exams and corrective lenses 
for computer workers is pending in the 
California Senate. A third bill establish- 
ing computer purchasing guidelines for 
the state also was tabled, though the 
California Office of Information Tech- 
nology reportedly has adopted similar 

Corporate opposition to computer 
safety bills is not difficult to understand. 
Even such relatively weak laws as those 
being mulled in Oregon, Massachusetts, 
and elsewhere impart legitimacy to the 
issue of computer hazards. With up- 
wards of $70 billion in yearly computer 
sales, the thought of litigating computer 
hazard claims raises hair on corporate 
heads. The damages for computer 
hazard suits could make the sums 
sought in the Johns Manville asbestos 
class action look like pin money. 

"Advice to managers and users is the 
best way to make people more comfort- 
able in the office, reduce stress, and let 
people know that visual displays are 
completely safe," testified Vico Hen- 
riques before the House Subcommittee 
on Health and Safety. Henriques recom- 
mends the advice of the Computer and 
Business Equipment Manufacturers As- 
sociation (CBEMA) whose president he 
is. Henriques argues that "legislative 
mandates [limiting exposure to com- 
puters] would force citizens to conform 
to a legislator's supposition about what 
will make them feel better." The 
CBEMA evidently prefers a status quo in 
which citizens conform to CBEMA's 
suppositions about computer safety. 
Accordingly, CBEMA plans a multi- 
media promotional campaign aimed at 
countering what Henriques terms the 
"public's delight in the sensational" 
stories about miscarriages and the wide- 
spread "misconception" [sic] that com- 
puter work isn't mentally stimulating. 
[Science for the People March/ April 

CBEMA recently joined with like- 
minded associations to form the Coali- 

tion tor Office Technology. The Coalition 
is establishing an information center in 
Washington DC. to provide moral and 
logistical guidance in local battles against 
state computer hazards legislation. The 
Coalition includes such disinterested 
parties as IBM, Digital Equipment 
Corporation, the American Insurance 
Association, the American Newspaper 
Publishers Association, and the Air 
Transport Association of America 
(ATA). The ATA represents 31 airline 
corporations employing 150,000 compu- 
ter workers and, according to Computer- 
World, "tracks up to 4,000 bills filed 
nationwide each year." 

Workers on Their Own 

Computer workers tied for long hours 
to their terminals with little immediate 
control over how they use them are 
probably most vulnerable to computer 
hazards. The suggestions below apply to 
all computer workers. 

Opthalmologists recommend twice- 
yearly eye examinations to monitor and 
correct computer-induced visual prob- 
lems. It's best to seek out physicians 
familiar with computer hazards. 

According to a nonbinding NIOSH 
recommendation, "a 15 minute work- 
rest break should be taken after one 
hour of continuous VDT work for 
operators under high visual demands, 
high workload or those engaged in 
repetitive work tasks." The British 
Association of Scientific, Technical and 
Managerial Staffs (ASTMS), agrees, and 
also suggests a less qualified proposal 
for all computer workers: "No more than 
four hours [in front of a computer] 
should be worked in any one day." 

These and other preventive measures 
inevitably raise broader questions about 
the workplace control and use of 
computers — questions that transcend 
computer hazards. Some of those haz- 
ards are amenable to technical fixes. 

The NSA's efforts to silence computer 
RF signals may spur development of 
affordable, accessible radiation contain- 
ment technologies. At the moment, 
however, NSA "ruggedizing" adds a 
100-300% premium to the cost of a 
desk-top computer. 

Fortunately, less expensive computer 
shielding is available now. The conduc- 
tive mesh filters fit over computer 
screens and prevent formation of an 
electromagnetic field, absorbing and 
safely draining radiation emitted 
through a screen. (Conductive mesh 
shielding that covers an entire computer 
is also reportedly available.) In addition, 
the filters reduce glare without reducing 
image resolution. Priced at under $100, 
the conductive filters cost less than many 
nonconductive screen shields that re- 
duce glare only. 

If computer-making corporations de- 
signed and built-in protection during 
manufacture (they don't), the cost of 
containing radiation emissions would 
drop dramatically. 

Unable to rely on immediate relief 
from the legislative front, concerned 
workers are quietly winning small vic- 
tories by directly confronting the prob- 
lem. When confronted, corporations that 
help sponsor popular ignorance of 
computer hazards show surprising 

IBM publicly denies evidence linking 
its computers to hazards, but allows its 
Silicon Valley workers to purchase con- 
ductive screen filters at company ex- 
pense. At another Silicon Valley firm, 
chipmaker LSI Logic Corporation, com- 
puter workers now have an open pur- 
chasing order for conductive filters 
despite their former president's active 
efforts to defeat the Hayden-sponsored 
computer safety bills. 

In view of the government and 
industry's records on computer hazards, 
such direct initiatives probably provide 
the most reliable protection. Computer 
workers are on their own. 

— by Dennis Hayes 

[Processed World is collecting informa- 
tion on computer hazards and "office 
ecology. " If you have some, pass it on. If 
you need some — including names and 
addresses of firms making conductive 
mesh filters for computer screens— write 
us. We'll try to help.] 

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